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Setting a Visitation Schedule in Virginia

June 3, 2024

The process of establishing a visitation schedule can be complex, as it involves balancing the rights and responsibilities of both parents while prioritizing the best interests of the child. In this article, we will explore who has the authority to decide visitation schedules in Virginia, the implications of the Court of Appeals’ decision in Rainey v. Rainey, 74 Va. App. 359 (2022), and the importance of seeking the guidance of an experienced family law attorney when navigating child custody and visitation matters.

Who decides the visitation schedule?

Quite often, the parents will agree on a custody and visitation schedule.  If the parents agree, the court will usually adopt the agreement as long as it is reasonable.  However, when parents do not agree, the decision must be made by the judge. 

In 2022, the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled in Rainey that it is the responsibility of the trial court judge to determine the visitation schedule of the parents.  In the Rainey decision, the Court of Appeals explained that the trial court judge cannot leave it to one parent to set the visitation schedule for another parent.  The Court of Appeals explained that leaving the decision to one parent could lead to that parent arbitrarily or unfairly withholding the child from the other parent.  

Can parties still set a visitation schedule by agreement in Virginia?

The short answer is:  Yes.  Parents can still set a schedule by agreement. In fact, the Court noted in a footnote in Rainey that parents making decisions jointly by agreement  is common, beneficial and not prohibited.    However, parties should still use care when crafting the schedule.  If the agreement does not lay out an actual schedule, it could be a problem down the line if the parents are unable to agree.  This could lead to having to come back to the court for another decision.  

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney for Help in a Child Custody or Visitation Case 

We understand the complexities of family law in Virginia, and are here to provide the guidance and support you need. Call us or visit our website to arrange your no-obligation consultation. Let us help you find the best path forward for you and your family. For more information, contact or call us at 703-686-5509 today.

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