Legal Information: Virginia


December 4, 2020

What is the difference between custody and visitation?

Visitation, also known as parenting time,1 allows a parent to visit with his/her child. How often the visits take place, where the visits take place, and whether or not the visits need to be supervised by another adult, will all be determined by the judge. At the request of either party, the judge can order that the exchange of a child take place at an appropriate meeting place instead of at the home of either parent.2

Custody and visitation arrangements will be determined by what the judge finds is in the best interests of the child. The judge could award joint legal, joint physical, or sole custody. There judge will not automatically favor any form of custody.3 For more information on how a judge will make decisions about custody and visitation, see How will a judge make a decision about custody?

Unlike legal custody, visitation does not give a parent the right to make major decisions about the child’s well-being, including education or medical matters. Unlike physical custody, a child will not live with a parent who has visitation rights. However, the child may be able to have overnight, weekend, or even longer visits with the parent, depending on what the judge decides.

1 Va. Code § 16.1–278.15(G1)
2 Va. Code § 20–124.3
3 Va. Code §§ 20-124.2(B); 124.3

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