If you and your children's other parent cannot live together any longer, you have to decide where the children will live. This is called custody. One or the other parent can have sole custody of the children, or the two parents can have shared or joint custody. In some cases, someone other than a parent may have custody.
If you are interested in filing for custody of your or someone else's children, you will have a custody hearing, the type of proceedings in which the court determines which parent, other adult or agency shall have physical control over a child. If the parent who does not have custody wants to spend time with the children, then there must be an arrangement for visitation. This agreement can be formal, with specific days and times listed. It can also be informal, and the parents can discuss visits as they come up.
If you are filing for a divorce, it is customary for custody, visitation, and support issues to be taken care of in the Circuit Court along with the divorce. If there is no divorce at this time and it is unlikely that you and the other person can come to an agreement on the issues of custody and visitation, you should ask the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to help you.
If you would like to file for custody, you must call the Domestic Relations Unit of the Juvenile Court for an appointment. The phone number is 703-246-3040. Because there is paper work which must be completed prior to the appointment, we ask that you be prepared to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment time.
If you are filing for custody for the purposes of school attendance or for custody of a child in the custody of the Department of Family Services (DFS), you must make an appointment with the Juvenile Intake Unit of the Juvenile Court. Their phone number is 703-246-2495.
What Must I Bring to an Appointment about Custody or Visitation?
- The home and work addresses of the other parent and that person's social security number.
- The present home address for each child and a list of the other places each child has lived during the last five years.
- The names and addresses of the person that each child has lived with during the last five years.
- If this is not the first time you've been involved in a custody case with these children, you must also bring a copy of the order from the last time you were here. You will need information on the previous case, such as what state, when and in what court.
What is the legal definition of legal custody?
According to Section 16.1-228 of the Code of Virginia, "Legal custody" means (i) 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 or (ii) the legal status created by court order of joint custody as defined in Section 20-107.2.
According to Section 20-124.1 of the code of Virginia, "Joint custody" means (i) joint legal custody where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child even though the child's primary residence may be with only one parent, (ii) joint physical custody where both parents share physical and custodial care of the child, or (iii) any combination of joint legal and joint physical custody which the court deems to be in the best interest of the child.
According to Section 20-124.1 of the Code of Virginia, "Sole custody" means that one person retains responsibility for the care and control of a child and has primary authority to make decisions concerning the child.