Virginia family law bill elevates parental rights

On behalf of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC posted in Family Law on Thursday, February 21, 2013.

Many Virginia residents consider being a parent their most important role in life. Because family law issues can have serious effects for parents and children, disputes over custody, parental rights, visitation rights and child support can be quite contentious. People often will go to great lengths to protect their right to be involved in their children's lives and raise their children the way they see fit.

The Virginia House of Delegates recently passed a bill declaring that parental rights are afforded the highest legal protection, designating these rights as "fundamental." With this designation, parental rights cannot be stripped from a parent without a compelling reason.

Specifically, the bill enumerates custody and visitation rights, financial support for children, and the right to provide proper care as parental rights. Lawmakers in support of the bill felt it was necessary because courts have been encroaching on the right of parent to raise their children. Those opposed to the bill worry that it could create conflict with the best interests of the child standard, which could result in mandatory joint custody in all cases.

When Virginia couples decide to divorce, they may have differing ideas about how to best raise their children. The best interests of the child may conflict with a parent's desire or right to be involved in the child's life or the rights of each parent may be in conflict. If parents are able to communicate and work together, they can often reach a compromise satisfactory to both parties with regard to child custody or visitation and child support.

In less agreeable situations, working with an experienced family law attorney can enable parents to protect their own rights and ensure that they do not get excluded from their children's lives because of the selfish desires or vindictive nature of the other parent. When the situation is not initially resolved in the best way, or if problems later arise, parents may also be able to work to modify or enforce a custody order.

Source: Rappahannock News, "Bill would make parental rights 'fundamental'," Shelby Mertens, Feb. 11, 2013

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