House Bill Introduced to Replace “Visitation” in Virginia

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 here.