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Recent Virginia divorce case has significant repercussions for custody cases

By April 11, 2022Custody, Divorce

Divorce cases are never easy – particularly when children are involved. 

In these types of situations, everyone should strive to come to agreements in the children’s best interests – particularly the Court. 

A recent Virginia custody case (Cathryn Rose Rainey v. Chad Christopher Rainey) reiterated that courts cannot abdicate decision-making authority, and the ruling has brought to light some interesting repercussions for future custody cases in Virginia.

Family law is deeply rooted in everyday life, and emotions can easily run high. But that’s why our team at Slovensky Law works hard to help our clients navigate these tricky issues. Read on for a better understanding of this case from our team of experienced Virginia family law attorneys.

What happened in this Virginia case?

After sixteen years of marriage, a couple with two children got divorced when the husband announced he was having an affair. 

Joint legal custody was originally granted to the parents, with the mother receiving primary physical custody, while the father had visitation rights. 

It was quickly determined that the children were having trouble reconnecting with their father (both as a result of the custody agreement and as a result of the father’s behavior). 

In an effort to improve the children’s relationship with their father – at the recommendation of several therapists involved in the case – the mother agreed to “let [the] father have full custody temporarily as a bridge to fostering reunification.”

To the mother’s horror, the father and the counselors involved in the case began to limit the mother’s interaction with her children. They refused to pass her letters along to her children, claiming they contained “counter-productive language.” But when she stopped trying to write letters, the counselors used this as evidence that the mother had no interest in reconnecting with her children. 

When the mother appealed to the Circuit Court, the Court sided with the father. The father was given “sole discretion” to decide when to move from beyond therapeutic visits with the mother to supervised visitation “with a supervisor of his choosing, though [the] mother was ordered to pay the costs for [the] father’s chosen supervisor.”

The mother appealed – this time to the Court of Appeals of Virginia.

What was the final ruling, and what does it mean for custody cases in Virginia moving forward?

The Appeals Court confirmed that juvenile and domestic relations district and Circuit Courts cannot allow either the primary custodial parent (in this case, the father) or third parties (in this case, the counselors) to have complete control over the non-custodial parent’s visitation with the children. 

The Court explained that complete control would be an abdication of the Court’s responsibility under the law to order visitation that is in the children’s best interest.

Here are some other important takeaways from this case that could affect Virginia custody cases in the years to come:

  • This case highlights that it is critical for separated or divorcing parents to encourage the children’s relationship with the other parent – even if the parents are angry at one another – within reason. 
  • Another important element this case discussed is that decisions made with regard to undergoing counseling ought to be carefully considered by all parties. 
  • Additionally, each party should recognize that stated, specific, minimum parenting time with each parent is the optimal arrangement in the vast majority of cases where neither parent represents a safety threat to the child.

Contact Slovensky Law today

At Slovensky Law, we’ve seen every kind of divorce and custody case imaginable, and we truly care about getting the best possible outcome for our clients. If you want a divorce lawyer dedicated to protecting your rights, contact our Roanoke, Virginia office to schedule a consultation today.