Governor Signs Bill to Replace “Visitation” in Virginia
By: Albert Bonin
Words are powerful tools. In the more aggravated cases they can also serve
as powerful weapons. In 1998, when I first used the term "parenting
time" instead of "visitation", my client was visibly moved.
I was told that out of all of the attorneys, I was the first one that
did not consider the client's parental role as being that of a visitor.
The terminology left a feeling of being undervalued, underappreciated and
the "inferior parent." In aggravated custody cases "non-custodial"
parents frequently feel, and are treated by their spouses, as less important
and these perceptions often filter down to their children. Many states
and other countries have enacted legislation to do away with terms such
as "custody" and "visitation" by using terms such
as, "parenting time," "alternation of care," and "parental
responsibility." It encourages parents to focus on their parental
responsibilities and time sharing rather than viewing children as possessions
that are either "won" or "lost." The general consensus
of the family law bar of the states that have moved away from this emotionally
charged terminology has been very favorable.
On February 17, 2017, the governor signed a bill to allow courts, in their
discretion, to use the phrase "parenting time" synonymously
for visitation in custody and visitation proceeding.
While this may seem like a small change, any change that moves us closer
to promoting the belief that children have the right to the involvement
of both parents and does not make a parent appear to be more inferior,
is a step in the right direction.
An article printed in the Virginia Lawyers Weekly, written by Albert Bonin,
regarding this topic can be found