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How is a child custody order enforced in Virginia?

While most Virginia family courts try to give divorcing parents joint custody of their child, there are occasions when one parent is given primary custody. In situations like this, the parent who was not awarded custody must then relinquish custody of the child to the custodial parent. But, what happens if the non-custodial parent refuses to honor the child custody agreement after the divorce? How then is a child custody order enforced in Virginia?

The first step in the enforcement process is for the custodial parent to file a petition with the court indicating that child custody has not be turned over to them by the other parent and requesting that the child custody order be carried out. Copies of the court's child custody order should be attached to the petition. A copy of the order may also be attached if an original copy cannot be located.

After filing the petition with the proper family court, the court will order the petition's respondent to appear in court at a hearing with or without the child. The court may also file an order to protect the safety of the child in question. The court must hold the hearing as soon as possible, but the date of the hearing may be delayed if the petitioner requests it.

At the date of the hearing, the court will then demand that the respondent honor the original child custody order and let the petitioner take immediate custody of the child in question. The court will then also require that all legal fees and costs relating to the petition are taken care of.

At the hearing the respondent may try and establish reasons why they did not comply with the custody petition. However, any Virginia resident who is going through a similar child custody struggle may want to speak with a child custody attorney in order to discover if there are additional ways that a Virginia family court can help them.

Source:, "Expedited enforcement of child custody; determination", Accessed July 17, 2016

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