Virginia courts use multiple factors to determine the visitation rights of parents to see their children. Generally, courts have the authority to give a parent or therapist the power to decide when and under what conditions another parent is allowed visitation to see their child. In Virginia, the courts are progressively becoming more unwilling to give this power to parents and therapists.
The case Rainey v. Rainey sent this exact message. The court gave the father the authority to consult with his children’s therapist and determine whether the mother qualified for visitation rights. Although the father was working with this therapist to make his determinations, he was given the final say in deciding when the mother could progress from only having therapeutic visits with her children to having supervised visits with a supervisor of his choosing. However, when the mother appealed her case, the higher court ruled in her favor. The higher court said that giving only the father the power to determine the mother’s visitation rights is too much power delegated to one person, and this type of power belongs to the court anyways. It is clear from the case that the opinion of a trained professional, like a therapist or psychologist, is important for the judge to consider when making a visitation determination, but ultimately the court should not completely delegate this decision to one person, especially since the father in this case had no formal counseling or psychological training.
This case shows how important it is to work through all the evidence and develop an expert strategy when trying to secure visitation rights. Having a trained professional on your side that can help argue in your favor in court is invaluable in making your case, especially after the Rainey decision. Although Virginia courts are increasingly unwilling to delegate their power of visitation to one person, the opinion of a therapist or other trained clinician can still play a monumental role in determining which parent is given more favorable custody of their child.
Before you begin pursuing a visitation or custody matter, request Attorney Van Smith’s FREE Divorce & Custody Guide E-Book. This guide will help you prepare for, and familiarize yourself with, the visitation and custody process. Above all else, the best way to prepare for any visitation and custody process is by retaining an experienced attorney to assist you throughout your case. If you would like assistance in pursuing your child visitation or custody case, please call one of our offices at 804-325-1245 (Richmond) or 757-941- 4298 (Williamsburg) to discuss your options.
Special thanks to law clerk Brayden Meadows for his editorial and drafting assistance with this article.