What Are the Child Custody Laws in Virginia?

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If you live in Virginia and have experienced a breakup that involves minor children, it's imperative that you know about child custody laws in the state. Even if you and your ex split long ago, you might want to revisit custody laws if your circumstances have changed. It's not uncommon for one or both partners to get remarried, move or have financial difficulties, all of these life changes could necessitate a change in custody.

You may also need to reevaluate your arrangement if your child has expressed a preference for living with one parent over the other.

While the wants of everyone in the family are taken into consideration the family court sometimes has to disappoint people. A Virginia family court will use several factors to determine child custody. The court's primary purpose in child custody suits is to foster frequent and continuous contact between the child and both parents. Toward that goal, the court may award joint custody or sole custody

Mediation and Child Custody in Virginia


In Virginia, mediation will be used as an alternative to the adversarial nature of litigation. The goals of mediation are to develop a parenting plan that addresses the child's living and care arrangements and to address how disputes will be handled by the parents in the future.

Best Interests of the Child

A Virginia family court will determine child custody and visitation based on the best interests of the child.

Factors included in determining a child's best interests are:

  • The age, physical, and mental condition of the child
  • The age, physical, and mental condition of each parent
  • Any history of family abuse
  • The child's wishes, if the child is of a sufficient age and understanding to express a preference (generally age 12 or older)
  • The role each parent plays in the child's upbringing
  • The child's needs, including the child's relationship with his/her parents, siblings, and extended family members
  • Each parent's willingness to foster a close relationship between the child and the other parent
  • Additional important factors determined by the court

Relocation and Child Custody in Virginia

In Virginia, a parent who is intending to relocate must give the court and the other parent 30 days notice. The relocating parent must also list the parent's new address unless the court decides that it is unnecessary.

Virginia Child Custody and Criminal Convictions

In Virginia, a family court has the option of preventing a parent from obtaining custody or seeking custody of a child if the parent was convicted of one of the following crimes:

  • Murder, voluntary manslaughter, or a felony attempt
  • Felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury or harm, if the victim was a child of the parent or a child with whom the parent lived with at the time
  • Felony sexual assault, if the victim was a child of the parent or a child with whom the parent lived with at the time

For more information about child custody in Virginia, speak with a qualified attorney in the state or refer to the Virginia Domestic Relations code.