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The Best Interests of the Child: Understanding Your Rights as the Non-Custodial Parent

Custody battles can be complex and stressful. No parent wants to lose custody of their child. So, what happens when you lose custody? Are you completely cut off from your child’s life? Virginia laws give non-custodial parents the right to be present in their child’s life. Read on to determine what rights the law gives you if you lose a Virginia custody battle.

How Child Custody Rights Work in Virginia

To understand the rights of the non-custodial parent in Virginia, first, let us analyze the different custody arrangements in Virginia:

Joint and Sole Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the power of making decisions about the child’s life. Things like the school they will attend, healthcare, and the religion they will subscribe to all fall under legal custody. A parent with sole legal custody gets to make these decisions without input from the other parent. Joint legal custody empowers both parents with the right to make these decisions.

Joint and Sole Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to the parent designated to offer a home to the child. Both parents may provide a home for the child under joint physical custody. However, under sole physical study, one parent gets to offer the primary home while the other person gets visitation rights. Typically the courts order primary physical or shared physical, which is defined based on the two different child support guidelines (primary = one parent having less than 90 days of custodial time and shared = more than 90).

Your Rights as a Non-custodial Parent

Under Virginia law the non-custodial parent still gets access to their child’s life.‌ Even without custody, you still retain your rights as a parent. For example, you get your child’s information from the custodial parent and third parties upon request. You may request information about healthcare or education. That’s not all, you retain the right to attend your child’s events. This may include birthdays, graduation ceremonies, plays, and other important milestones.

“Full/Sole custody is rare. When the courts completely restrict a parent from seeing their child, it’s because there is some underlying issue or another parent wishes to be uninvolved. Most of the time, both parents get to be in the child’s life as a decision maker and a provider,” says attorney Kellam T. Parks of Parks Zeigler, PLLC.

Your Rights Are Being Denied- What Should You Do?

If the other parent is denying your rights in any way, like violating the visitation schedule, there are steps you can take. First, you should reach out to them to try to resolve the issues. If unsuccessful and there is an existing court order, you should pursue filing an action with the court seeking contempt of court. It lets the court know that the other parent is not following the visitation schedule. Secondly, you can modify the custody order if the other parent is not complying with the requirements. The court will always consider the child’s best interest – that is the legal standard it must apply for all custody and visitation issues. When necessary, it will modify the custody arrangements to suit the child’s needs better.

The Need for an Attorney

While filing such cases a lot of the time happens by the parties themselves, we always recommend hiring counsel if you can afford to do so. Your lawyer may be able to convince the other parent to negotiate and fix the issue, minus the need for litigation. Additionally, a good family law attorney knows the laws and procedures in court to maximize a positive outcome for you.

 

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