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Know the Laws: U.S. Virgin Islands

UPDATED November 23, 2016

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WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a lawyer in your community for more information on custody. Go to the VI Where to Find Help page for a list of organizations in your community that can help.

Definitions

back to topWhat is the difference between sole and joint custody?

Physical and legal custody can either be sole or shared. The legal description of this authority is sole custody or joint. Any combination of the two is possible. Parents or caregivers can have joint physical custody (for example the child spends half the week at one person's house and half the week at the other) or have joint legal custody.

The most common arrangement in the Virgin Islands is for one parent to have sole physical custody and both parents sharing joint legal custody. Generally, the courts favor both parents having maximum contact with the child.

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back to topWhat is visitation?

Visitation is a parent or relative's right to spend time with the child. Visitation can occur through face-to-face contact with the child, or over the telephone, depending on the circumstances.  When requesting visitation from the court, a parent can ask for a specific schedule for visitation, or may leave the visitation schedule open, and simply state that the visitation will be reasonable or liberal.

A parent's right to visitation is not affected by non-payment of child support. The custodial parent cannot deny visitation due to non-payment.

In extreme cases, the court will order supervised visitation.  In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the court also may choose to place any of the following constraints on parents who have committed violence:

  • order the exchange of the child to be in a protected setting;
  • order the visitation to be supervised (and order the abuser to pay for some/all of the cost of the supervised visitation);
  • order the abuser to attend/complete a batterers' intervention program or other counseling as a condition of visitation;
  • order the abuser to not drink alcohol or use drugs during the visitation and for 24 hours before the visitation;
  • prohibit overnight visitation;
  • require the abuser to post a bond (money) to ensure that s/he returns the child to the other parent and keeps the child safe; and
  • require anything else that is considered necessary to provide for the safety of the child, the victim of domestic violence, or another family or household member.*

*16 V.I.C. § 109(d)

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back to topWhat is jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction is the authority of a court to decide who should have custody. Typically the Virgin Islands courts will have jurisdiction if the child has lived in the Virgin Islands for six months or longer before the case is filed. However there are exceptions such as if the child is kidnapped and taken to another state or territory or the child is in immediate danger.

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WomensLaw.org would like to thank the Legal Services of the Virgin Islands, Inc. for helping with a previous version of this page.

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