Virginia Makes Family Court Reform History

Governor Northam Supports Shared Parenting Bill; Ceremonial Signing Expected

Richmond, Virginia, May 21, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- National Parents Organization is excited to announce another historic event: As of midnight, May 18, 2018, Virginia’s House Bill 1351 became law (effective date July 1, 2018). 

This opens the door to a more robust shared parenting law in the future. 

Delegate Glenn Davis, R-House District 84, sponsored the bill (HB 1351) and stated, “I am proud to have led the first successful passing of any kind of shared parenting bill in the history of the Commonwealth. This bill represented all Virginian families and children and was supported by both political parties, as well as The Family Foundation and the Family Law Coalition.” 

This law is the first step in a longer journey and both the House and Senate unanimously passed it, which is a testament to its bipartisan nature. Importantly, this law leaves in place existing provisions that account for histories of domestic violence or other abuse.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled for the families of Virginia. We want to thank our legislators, especially Delegate Glenn Davis whose collaborative leadership is unmatched, and Governor Northam for acting unanimously on the overwhelming research that shows children do best when the time they spend with each of their loving parents is maximized,” said Christian Paasch, Chair of National Parents Organization of Virginia. “I am proud to now be able to say that the Commonwealth has started to align its child custody laws with decades of child development research. We still have work to do and we look forward to continuing this important work with our legislators, but we are heartened by the passing of HB 1351.”

As The Washington Post reported, more than 20 states have recently considered legislation supportive of shared parenting – a flexible, collaborative, and safe child custody arrangement that seeks to maximize a child’s time with each parent. Virginia’s passage of HB 1351 comes on the heels of Kentucky signing a much stronger, rebuttable presumption of shared parenting into law last month. 

Virginia’s new law requires the court to formally consider joint/shared custody on par with sole custody. While some might argue that Virginia’s statutes already allow for such a consideration, the truth is that approximately 85% of the time, sole or primary custody is still awarded. Unfortunately, children in sole custody arrangements are exposed to a multitude of risks, such as teen suicide, school dropouts, and behavioral disorders. Approximately 60 studies from numerous states and countries, and spanning several decades, have shown that on every metric of well-being, children do better in shared parenting situations than in sole custody situations (see “Recent Research” below).

A trend toward shared parenting has gained steam in recent years. It has been the usual arrangement for several years in Sweden, Belgium, and Australia, and research there has shown much better outcomes for children. A handful of states have had similar laws for several years, and each year, a few more states follow suit and join the modern world in doing what is best for children: shared parenting. A soon-to-be-published study on Arizona’s law found that judges, attorneys, conciliation court staff, and mental health professionals evaluated its shared custody law positively overall, and positively in terms of its effects on children.

“Because of this new law in Virginia, the Commonwealth has taken an important first step to improve children’s educational achievements, decrease their use of drugs, give them a greater sense of security, and improve their overall health and adjustment. We look forward to seeing Virginia continue down the path toward true shared parenting, which is good for mothers, good for fathers, and best for children and families.” Paasch said. “Please join us in celebrating this landmark action!” 


Shared Parenting Data

Single Parenting Data

According to 
federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:

  • 63% of teen suicides;
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;
  • 71% of high school drop-outs;
  • 75% of children in chemical abuse centers;
  • 85% of those in prison;
  • 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children.

National Parents Organization, a charitable and educational 501 (c)(3) organization, seeks better lives for children through family law reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers after divorce or separation. The organization is focused on promoting shared parenting and preserving a child’s strong bonds with both parents, which is critically important to their emotional, mental, and physical health. National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws, and in 2017, National Parents Organization hosted the International Conference on Shared Parenting, bringing in research scholars from 18 countries to share their results on shared parenting. Visit the National Parents Organization website at


Christian Paasch serves as Chair of National Parents Organization of Virginia.

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