What are visitation rights?

When you are trying to create a child custody plan that works for both parties, as well as the child, the topic of visitation may be put on the table. Visitation relates to the "physical custody" portion of a custody agreement, which is where the child lives on a daily basis.

If one parent is granted sole physical custody, the other parent should have visitation rights. This means that although that parent is not responsible for the day-to-day care of the child, there are still designated days that the parent will have the child. It is also possible for parents to share joint legal custody—making important decisions together regarding education, religion, and medical care—but then have one parent with sole physical custody and the other with visitation rights.

Parents do not have to agree on a set visitation schedule, though it is certainly helpful for everyone involved. A fairly regular visitation schedule gives the child some consistency and prevents unnecessary arguments between the parents. A very common visitation schedule is for the noncustodial parent to have the child every other weekend, but again, this does not work for everyone. Any visitation schedule should also address holidays, birthdays, and school vacations. It is very common for parents alternate holidays, for example, the child spends Thanksgiving with one parent and Christmas with the other parent one year and then the next year that is switched.

Courts will rarely deny a parent visitation rights unless there are extreme circumstances. Because judges believe that both parents should be able to maintain a relationship with the child, they will usually change normal visitation to supervised visitation if there are any concerns about the noncustodial parent.

If the custodial parent makes it difficult for the non-custodial parent to exercise their visitation rights, the Court may modify the custody to include changing the custody of the child to the other parent. This may apply whether the custodial parent is refusing to allow the visitation or if the custodial parent has made the visitation more difficult by moving out of the area.

Visitation is also not limited to noncustodial parents. Virginia law allows anyone with a true interest in the child to request visitation; this includes grandparents, stepparents, ex-stepparents, and other family members.

If you are looking to work out a child custody agreement and visitation schedule, contact the Virginia Beach family law office of Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-340-3100 today for a consultation.

Edrie Pfeiffer
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Edrie Pfeiffer, Bankruptcy & Divorce Attorney