Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Virginia Child Custody Procedure

The end of a relationship brings a lot of uncertainty. Depending on your situation, you can go your separate ways without looking back. However, if you share any children, issues of custody and visitation must be addressed. The specific procedure for getting custody of a child varies from state to state.

Jurisdiction of Custody Issues in Virginia

Virginia has concurrent jurisdiction for custody matters in the state. This means that two different courts -- the Circuit Court and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court -- both have the authority to adjudicate custody matters. The Circuit Court decides custody as part of divorce cases and the Domestic Relations District Court rules in all other custody cases.

Summary of Virginia Child Custody Procedure

Although it's recommended to speak with an attorney in complex cases, reading a plain English summary of statutes can serve as a helpful introduction to a state's laws. The chart below provides such a summary for the procedure to file for custody in Virginia.


Virginia Code Title 20:

  • Section 20-142.2 (court-ordered custody and visitation arrangements)
  • Section 20-142.3 (best interests of the child standard)
  • Section 20-142.4 (mediation)

Filing for Custody



The Petition

After the proper venue is established (your child must have lived in the Virginia county for at least 6 months prior to the filing), the child custody procedure begins with the filing of the petition. A Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit for each child is also filed.

Mandatory Mediation

Unlike some states, Virginia doesn't require a parenting plan. However, the parties must attend mandatory mediation to try to resolve the issues in the case.

If the parties reach a resolution in mediation, the agreement is incorporated into a court order at the initial return date. If not, the case proceeds to the initial hearing.

Initial Hearing

The court will typically take these actions at the initial hearing:

  • Order the parties to attend a parenting education class;
  • Enter a temporary custody and visitation order; and
  • Set a date for trial several months later.

Custody Trial

At the custody trial, the judge will review all relevant information in the case and allow each party to call witnesses and present evidence.

The custody determination will be based on the "best interests" of the child factors, including:

  • The age of the parties and the child;
  • The ability to meet the physical needs of the child;
  • The relationship as it exists between the parent and the child; and
  • The ability to resolve disputes regarding the child.

The judge makes the custody determination and the case concludes.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Virginia Child Custody Procedure: Related Resources

Discuss Virginia's Child Custody Procedure with an Attorney

Being involved in a custody case can be very confusing and difficult, especially with so much on the line. Discuss your case with a skilled family law attorney who can help you navigate the child custody procedure in Virginia and ensure that your child custody rights are protected.

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Family law matters are often complex and require a lawyer
  • Lawyers can protect your rights and seek the best outcome

Get tailored family law advice and ask a lawyer questions. Many attorneys offer free consultations.


 If you need an attorney, find one right now.

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options