Q: I have just been awarded sole custody of my child with no visitation being set with the courts. what does this mean?
A: If there is no court-ordered visitation for the other parent, the other parent does not have a legal right to visitation. To gain a legal right to visitation, the other parent will have to file a petition for visitation.
Of course, you can choose to allow the other parent to visit the child, and it is generally understood that a child benefits more from having a meaningful relationship with both parents rather than just one parent.
However, if you have concerns over the other parent's ability to properly care for the child during visitation, or believe the child would not be safe, you can choose not to allow visitation. In that case, if the other parent files for visitation in the court, you need to explain to the judge exactly what your concerns are and why. Also keep in mind that if you deny the other parent access to the child without good reason, even if there is no visitation order in place, it could affect you negatively in any future custody or visitation dispute. That is because in Virginia, one of the factors that the court takes into consideration when making custody and visitation decisions, is each parent's ability or willingness to allow the other parent to have a relationship with the child.
If you are not sure whether your child is safe with the other parent, you should consult with an attorney about the details of your situation, and a child counselor as well. If you believe that your child has been abused by, or is in danger because of the other parent, you should report it to Child Protective Services at once.
I hope this information will be helpful to you, and good luck.
Beth McCord Paleos, Esq.
McCord Law Office
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