Johnson City, TN asked in Family Law and Child Custody for Virginia

Q: What age does Virginia allow children to make decisions on whether or not they want to see their parents ?

I am thier grandmother and have had custody for nearly 9 years. They have been through a lot mentally and emotionally . Thier mother has seen them once in like 7 years and has not kept contact. The kids are now 11 yrs old and 13 years old. Neither of the kids wants anything to do with her and I do not want thier lives disrupted any more than it already has been. I can't afford an attorney if needed at this point. I just need to know a few laws on the situation. Thank you

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1 Lawyer Answer
James H. Wilson Jr.
James H. Wilson Jr.
  • Divorce Lawyer
  • Glen Allen, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: There is no specific age at which a child can express a custody or visitation preference. The Code of Virginia allows such a reasonable preference if the child is of "reasonable intelligence, understanding, age, and experience to express such a preference." When allowed to express a preference, the child meets with the judge in chambers, meaning in the judge's office in the courthouse, and not in the courtroom itself. The attorneys or a guardian ad litem will be present.

The judges are very good at talking casually with the child and discussing their school, sports, interests, life and living arrangements without being too pointed. The child is not put in a position of choosing one parent over the other. Nevertheless, there are a number of professionals who believe the process is traumatizing and inappropriate in all circumstances. I disagree. I believe it can be useful in some cases, generally when the child is smart and relatively mature, at about 12 years old or older. I have discussed this issue with some adults who were able to do this as children, and their impressions were generally positive and empowering.

Anyone facing a child custody or visitation case in Virginia should consult with an experienced Virginia family law lawyer.

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