Thank you for your question.
Troxel v. Granville didn't entirely destroy the concept of third party visitation. Instead, Troxel struck down the Washington statute, referring to it as "breathtakingly broad." While Troxel was a heavy blow in favor of parent's rights, it did not defeat third party visitation. The major problem with the statute in Troxel was that the judge had broad discretion based solely on the best interests of the child.Virginia's statute is more narrowly tailored, specifying that the preferences of the parents should carry additional weight. While it's not as narrow as the statutes of many states, it's not as broad as the statute struck down in Washington. I have included the statute (in relevant part) below. Please note the bold part.As you can see, Virginia courts may award visitation to a third party. However, the well-reasoned preferences of the child involved may carry some weight with a court. Further, a parent's preferences should be given a great deal of consideration. Accordingly, you will want to retain an attorney to represent you in the matter, as your attorney may be able to help you avoid such a visitation requirement.
§ 20-124.2. Court-ordered custody and visitation arrangements.B. In determining custody, the court shall give primary consideration to the best interests of the child. The court shall assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children. As between the parents, there shall be no presumption or inference of law in favor of either. The court shall give due regard to the primacy of the parent-child relationship but may upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence that the best interest of the child would be served thereby award custody or visitation to any other person with a legitimate interest. The court may award joint custody or sole custody.
§ 20-124.2. Court-ordered custody and visitation arrangements.
B. In determining custody, the court shall give primary consideration to the best interests of the child. The court shall assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children. As between the parents, there shall be no presumption or inference of law in favor of either. The court shall give due regard to the primacy of the parent-child relationship but may upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence that the best interest of the child would be served thereby award custody or visitation to any other person with a legitimate interest. The court may award joint custody or sole custody.
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How much weight does my son carry. He would like to visit his full sister which has been arrainged, but does not want anything to do with the half sister he barley knows and he stated to me he does not want to go to baltimore for any type of visitation even with his full sister. Can a judge tell us we have to go to baltimore?
If visitation is ordered, the court can order that a child will travel to a different city or state for or during that visitation period.A court has a great deal of discretion when considering a child's preference. Really, that typically comes down to the court's assessment of the situation. If the court feels the child's mature and that the preferences are well-reasoned, the court may grant the child's preferences additional weight. However, if the court doesn't feel so, the court may give the preferences no weight. This is really a matter of discretion for the court.
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If a parent believes a court abused its discretion in ordering third party visitation, the parent may appeal the decision. Appeals are complicated and the time frame for appeals can be extremely short, making it essential to have an attorney's representation for an appeal.
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I will have my attorney present.
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