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Child Custody
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Virginia Child Custody

Under Virginia law, both parents-even if they are not in a romantic relationship with one another-are expected to help raise their minor children and contribute toward the cost of having a child. If you are getting divorced, then the judge hearing your divorce case will rule on child custody, visitation and child support. Unmarried parents can work with child custody attorneys to help establish paternity and come to a legally binding child custody agreement. If parents cannot reach a custody decision, then the judge will make a ruling based on the best interests of the child.

Basics of Child Custody Law

Under Virginia law, child custody (also known as legal custody is defined as:

"[A] legal status created by court order which vests in a custodian the right to have physical custody of the child, to determine and redetermine where and with whom he shall live, the right and duty to protect, train and discipline him and to provide him with food, shelter, education and ordinary medical care, all subject to any residual parental rights and responsibilities." (Source: Section 16.1-228 of the Code of Virginia)

In most cases, Virginia courts will consider giving parents shared custody (also known as joint custody) unless shared custody would be harmful to the child.


If a child is born to unmarried parents, then either the father or the mother will first have to establish legal paternity (also known as parentage) before the court will rule on custody, support or visitation issues. In Virginia, there are two ways to establish paternity of a child whose parents weren't married at the time the child was born:

  • Both parents sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form
  • Genetic testing

Child Support

In addition to helping raise a child, both parents are expected to contribute to the financial expense of raising a child. In Virginia, child support is calculated based on the combined gross income of the parents and how many children are being supported. The court is allowed to deviate from the child support guidelines if the calculation is inappropriate in a particular case.

Child support can also be adjusted if there is a change in circumstances. These would include:

  • A significant change in one parent's income
  • A change in which parent the child spends more time with
  • A change in the child's financial needs (such as extraordinary medical or educational expenses)
  • Find & Hire Virginia Child Custody Attorneys

    Child custody law is complicated-and once custody, support and visitations agreements are made, they can be difficult to change. That's why it's smart to work with a child custody lawyer from the outset. An attorney helps ensure the protection of your legal rights as a parent.

    Whether you live in Norfolk, Richmond, Arlington or elsewhere in Virginia, can quickly connect you with local family law attorneys. Call 877-913-7222 to use our free service, or complete the form on this page.