2006 Code of Virginia § 20-124.2 - Court-ordered custody and visitation arrangements

20-124.2. Court-ordered custody and visitation arrangements.

A. In any case in which custody or visitation of minor children is at issue,whether in a circuit or district court, the court shall provide promptadjudication, upon due consideration of all the facts, of custody andvisitation arrangements, including support and maintenance for the children,prior to other considerations arising in the matter. The court may enter anorder pending the suit as provided in 20-103. The procedures fordetermining custody and visitation arrangements shall insofar as practical,and consistent with the ends of justice, preserve the dignity and resourcesof family members. Mediation shall be used as an alternative to litigationwhere appropriate. When mediation is used in custody and visitation matters,the goals may include development of a proposal addressing the child'sresidential schedule and care arrangements, and how disputes between theparents will be handled in the future.

B. In determining custody, the court shall give primary consideration to thebest interests of the child. The court shall assure minor children offrequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, andencourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children.As between the parents, there shall be no presumption or inference of law infavor of either. The court shall give due regard to the primacy of theparent-child relationship but may upon a showing by clear and convincingevidence that the best interest of the child would be served thereby awardcustody or visitation to any other person with a legitimate interest. Thecourt may award joint custody or sole custody.

C. The court may order that support be paid for any child of the parties. Thecourt shall also order that support will continue to be paid for any childover the age of 18 who is (i) a full-time high school student, (ii) notself-supporting, and (iii) living in the home of the party seeking orreceiving child support until such child reaches the age of 19 or graduatesfrom high school, whichever first occurs. The court may also order thecontinuation of support for any child over the age of 18 who is (i) severelyand permanently mentally or physically disabled, (ii) unable to liveindependently and support himself, and (iii) resides in the home of theparent seeking or receiving child support. In addition, the court may confirma stipulation or agreement of the parties which extends a support obligationbeyond when it would otherwise terminate as provided by law. The court shallhave no authority to decree support of children payable by the estate of adeceased party. The court may make such further decree as it shall deemexpedient concerning support of the minor children, including an order thatany party provide health care coverage.

D. In any case in which custody or visitation of minor children is at issue,whether in a circuit or district court, the court may order an independentmental health or psychological evaluation to assist the court in itsdetermination of the best interests of the child. The court may enter suchorder as it deems appropriate for the payment of the costs of the evaluationby the parties.

E. The court shall have the continuing authority and jurisdiction to make anyadditional orders necessary to effectuate and enforce any order enteredpursuant to this section or 20-103 including the authority to punish ascontempt of court any willful failure of a party to comply with theprovisions of the order. A parent or other person having legal custody of achild may petition the court to enjoin and the court may enter an order toenjoin a parent of the child from filing a petition relating to custody andvisitation of that child for any period of time up to 10 years if doing so isin the best interests of the child and such parent has been convicted of anoffense under the laws of the Commonwealth or a substantially similar law ofanother state, the United States, or any foreign jurisdiction whichconstitutes (i) murder or voluntary manslaughter, or a felony attempt,conspiracy or solicitation to commit any such offense, if the victim of theoffense was a child of the parent, a child with whom the parent resided atthe time the offense occurred, or the other parent of the child, or (ii)felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury, felony bodily woundingresulting in serious bodily injury, or felony sexual assault, if the victimof the offense was a child of the parent or a child with whom the parentresided at the time of the offense. When such a petition to enjoin the filingof a petition for custody and visitation is filed, the court shall appoint aguardian ad litem for the child pursuant to 16.1-266.

(1994, c. 769; 1996, cc. 767, 879, 884; 1999, c. 574; 2003, c. 520; 2006, c.665.)

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