Where to Find Family Court Records in Virginia?
In Virginia, family court records are generated and maintained by the Circuit Court and a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts. Each county in the state is home to at least one Circuit Court and one Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. While Circuit courts have general jurisdiction over family matters, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts handle juvenile delinquency and domestic violence cases. Appeal cases from there are heard at the Circuit Court. Family court cases include custody, support, visitation, abuse, accusations of child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, and other family relations matters.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records have information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
What Is Family Law in Virginia?
All matters arising from family interactions in Virginia are interpreted and governed by the Virginia Family Law Code. It encompasses all that is about marriage, divorce, child support inheritance, and estate rights, juvenile delinquency, adoption, emancipation, child visitation, spousal support, etc. There are about 40 sections in the state code that address family matters. It is further split down into several subsection articles and chapters, some of which are:
- Adoption: §63.2–1200; §63.2–901.1; §63.2–1201.1; §63.2–1205; §63.–2–1205.1; §63.2–1225; §63.2–1719; §63.2–1202 - §63.2–1205; §63.2–1243(b); §20–146.11; §63.2–1229; §63.2–1243 - §63.2–1244
- Child custody and visitation: §16.1–241(A)(3), §8.01–9; §16.1–266; §16.1–244; §16.1–241(A)(3); §20–124.5; §16.1–278.15
- Child Support: §63.2–1900, et seq.§20–60.3, §20–108.1(C), §20–108.2, §20–124.2, §63.2–1954.1, §63.2–1900, §20–60.3; §20–79.2; §16.1–278.15
- Marriage: §20–48; §20–38.1 - §20–43; §20–45.2; §20–45.3; §20–43; §20–45.1;§20–49
- Emancipation: §16.1–331 §16.1–334
- Juvenile delinquency: §16.1–226; §16.1–296; §16.1–244; §16.1–262, §Rule 8:15; §16.1–297; §20–79(c)
- Parental rights: §16.1–283; §20–49.1
- Protective orders: §20–103; §16.1–228; §16.1–241(m);§16.1–253.1; §16.1–279.1; §20–103(B)
- Spousal support: §20–109.A; §20–108.1; §20–60.3; §20–107.1; §16.1–278.15; §20–109.C; §20–109.1; §16.1–278.17:1; §20–78.2; §16.1–241(L); §20–107–1:1; §20–109; §20–107.1; §20–110; §20–109D; §20–88.32 - §20–88.82
- Surrogacy: §20–156
- Estate and inheritance: §64.2–305; §64.2–308, §64.2–422; §64.2–304, §64.2–307
- Case records: §32.1–271; §32.1–272
What Are Family Court Cases and Records in California?
Family Court cases in Virginia refer to conflicts arising from family interactions. The term “domestic relations” is used to describe family court cases in the state. Family court cases include marriage, divorce, child custody and support, adoption and paternity, spousal support, equitable distribution of assets, and restraining or protection orders. The court compiles documents generated from the progress of the case. The records’ content includes written statements, complaints and counter-complaints, court dispositions and judgments, and court transcripts. Generally, Family Courts in Virginia hear family cases under the following categories:
- Child custody: Custody matters for children in Virginia may not necessarily be as a result of divorce. The adoption of a child who has lost their parents requires a legal process.
- Child support and visitation: When there is a divorce, one of the partners receives custody. The award is accompanied by divorced parties’ responsibilities to support the child in terms of livelihood and arrange for the non-custodial parent to visit the child.
- Family abuse: family abuse often involves spouse battery, domestic violence, or any other harmful acts carried out by one family member against another.
- Intra-family felonies: This refers to criminal acts perpetrated by family members. A preliminary hearing is given to the case before it is subsequently transferred to the criminal court division.
- Estate and inheritance settlements involve the appropriation of property and the interpretation of the terms of a written will upon the demise of a family member.
- Divorce/ dissolution/ annulment: a divorce in a Virginia trial Court is a process that dissolves a marital union. A dissolution is similar to a divorce, but it is often referred to when a partner dies. On the other hand, an annulment is an invalid marriage process that falls short of the state’s legal marriage standards.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state in which that person resides or was accused.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Are Family Court Cases Public Records in Virginia?
The court keeps most family court records in Virginia away from general public access, in line with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. This Act allows only eligible persons to access case information regarding family court records. This Act defines information about marriage, custody, paternity, and guardianship rights as confidential. Where it is available in public view, necessary identifying information is often withdrawn from Public Disclosure.
The court takes the restriction of juvenile records very seriously in Virginia. Juvenile records include child custody, birth records, guardianship, educational information, health evaluation, mental assessment, and all information about delinquencies. According to the Confidentiality Of Court Records Act, all court records regarding persons younger than 18 are closed to the general public. Only the following persons are eligible to view juvenile documents:
- Judges and authorized court staff
- Official delegates of agencies providing supervision or legal custody to the child
- Attorneys on the case
- Persons with a legitimate interest
How Do I Find Family Court Records in Virginia?
Any member of the general public can request to view or copy family court records by contacting the court clerk where the party filed the case. If the party filed the case in a District Court, use the District Court clerk directory to locate the courthouse. For Circuit Court records, use the Circuit Court clerk directory. Generally, most requests should be made in writing and submitted either in person or by mail. Some counties have a wider variety of application methods; therefore, contact the court of interest before deciding on the route of request. It applies only to publicly-accessible family court records. Confidential family court records may not be readily accessible without court authorization or executive order.
Each request must contain the necessary information required to search for the record. These are the names of the involved person, the date the case was filed, the case information number, and the court where the case was filed.
Vital records constitute family court records. In addition to obtaining them at the courthouse office, they are also available at the Vital Records Office of the Virginia State Department of Health. Note that birth and death records are not open to the public until 100 years from filing. Marriage and divorce records are available for public access after 25 years from the date of filing.
Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored, and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
How Do I Find Family Court Records Online?
The Virginia Judicial System provides public users with online access to records of cases held within the state. For family court records maintained by Circuit Court, use the Circuit court case information page. Users can search for case information by county using the name of the person listed in the record, the case number, or the date the case was heard. The Secure Remote Access To Land Records page provides information about Circuit court land records, including marriage licenses, judgment, deeds, and wills. To use the Land Record page, users must register with the Local Circuit Court clerk. Registration with the clerk is necessary because family court records in Circuit Court are mostly confidential. Not all Circuit courts in Virginia subscribe to the online service platform. It is essential to confirm with the Circuit Court clerk of interest if online access is available. For example, Circuit Courts of Alexandria and Fairfax do not use the statewide online Case Management System.
Cases heard in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court are available at the Online Court Information Page serves to provide case information and receive payment. Again, not all counties have their Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court subscribed to the service; therefore, contact the local District Court clerk for more information.
What Is Virginia Custody Law?
Virginia Custody law describes the sharing of parental roles about a child after a divorce is granted. Custody allocation and responsibilities are part of the divorce process in court. Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in Virginia usually decide issues on child custody support and visitation. The guidelines for decisions made by the courts are governed by § 20–124.2. Court-ordered custody and visitation arrangements. Custody agreements in family court records are not accessible to everyone because they are considered confidential by state laws. According to Virginia state laws, custody of a minor can be granted in three ways depending on the case’s adjoining issues:
- Joint legal custody- here, both parents maintain responsibility for the care and authority of a child, regardless of where the child lives.
- Sole custody: a parent is awarded physical custody and authority while the non-custodial parent may arrange for visitation. This is common in cases where the non-custodial parent may have been charged with abuse.
- Joint physical custody: both parents share physical custody by regularly scheduling a visitation and care arrangement for them.
How to Find Family Court Lawyers in Virginia?
The Virginia State Bar is an agency of the Supreme Court of the state. Persons seeking a family court lawyer’s services can visit the Virginia State Bar website to use the lawyer referral service. This service is a 30-minute consultation that costs $35. Otherwise, use the lawyer directory on the site to locate the state bar members and their contact information, call (804) 775- 0500, or (800) 828- 1120. if preferred, visit the agency office at:
1111, East Main Street, suite 700
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Office hours are between 8:15 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. on business days.
Free legal services for persons who cannot afford to pay an attorney are also provided by the Virginia state bar. Use the pro bono service providers page to obtain a list of legal firms that offer free services. Also, the Cornell University Law School provides an online directory of lawyers and their specialties on a state-by-state basis. At the state level, the online resource list attorneys by City or County. Begin by identifying the search page’s practice area, then locating the county or city of interest. Another way to find Family Court lawyers in Virginia is to conduct a random internet search for law firms within the state, using the search term “family law.” Most of them can be contacted through their websites.