CHILD CUSTODY – VIRGINIA LAWYERS
Get Child Custody Help When It Matters The Most
One of the first questions in a divorce in Virginia is who will get custody of the child or children?
Child custody in Virginia is a legal term used to qualify the relationship the child or children has between the parents. A determination of child custody in Virginia will resolve issues such as which parent will the child or children spend the majority of time with or will the parents equally share their time with the child or children. Also, a determination of child custody in Virginia may have an impact on child support payments and a determination of who are the payer and the payee.
If you are in need the help of a lawyer in Virginia for a child custody case, turn to the Virginia attorneys of SRIS, P.C. for help. We have client meeting locations in Virginia to better serve you.
Virginia: Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Loudoun, Lynchburg, Manassas, Richmond & Virginia Beach.
If you wish to speak with one of our lawyers in Virginia regarding a child custody case in Virginia, please feel free to call us 888-437-7747
The following is a general overview of some of the issues that a parent may face in regards to child custody in Virginia.
The child custody courts in Virginia will frequently use the term “best interests of the child” in making a determination as to child custody in Virginia. Although the courts in Virginia will generally consider all the factors in a child custody determination, some factors will be given more weight than others.
Our Virginia lawyers have found that most parents are able to decide by themselves what the child custody and visitation arrangements are going to be for the child or children without a judge deciding the issue of child custody. However, some parents in Virginia are not reasonable and unable to cooperate and come to an agreement as to the custody of the child or children. When parents engage in child custody litigation, the relationship between the parents can become very hostile. The mentality some parents take is that of a win at all costs. Some of the allegations that are made in court filings are that of sexual, physical, emotional abuse, alienation of affection by the other parent, etc. The Virginia attorneys of SRIS, P.C. will always counsel their clients to take the “high road” in a custody battle. The reason we counsel our clients to take the high road approach in a child custody battle is for two reasons:
- the truth ultimately comes out and judges who have been hearing child custody cases in Virginia are not pleased when parents make false allegations;
- although it is very important that you do not allow false allegations to go unchallenged, child custody battles can be very expensive. If both parties engage in making speculative allegations in a child custody case, this will only drive up the cost of litigation.
When child custody disputes arise in Virginia, it is not uncommon for one of the parents to attempt to engage in forum shopping in an endeavor to gain an unfair edge against the other party. Forum shopping is basically looking for a state or country that may have more favorable laws towards one of the parents in regards to child custody. Many countries have become a part of the Hague Convention to prevent forum shopping between countries. Additionally, in the United States, an act called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was enacted and adopted by every state to prevent forum shopping in child custody cases. The essence of this act is to require all the states to defer to the jurisdiction of the home state of the child or children. The Virginia attorneys of SRIS, P.C. have represented clients who have to deal with the other parent attempting to engage in forum shopping. It is very important to hire the services of a lawyer when faced with an issue of forum shopping. The statutory designation of “home state” lasts only for a certain period of time.
The attorneys of SRIS, P.C. do truly care about you and your children and we look forward to helping you.
Please feel free to call us at 888-437-7747.
Our attorneys and staff speak the following languages in addition to English: Tamil, Arabic, Hindi, Telugu, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Malaysian & French.
Frequently, the clients we represent in Virginia are inundated with variety of different terms regarding child custody and support. In an endeavor to better assist them understand the different terms used, the following are some of the official definitions from the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
But what exactly determines this “best interests of the child” criteria?
Do Mother’s Have More “Clout” When It Comes To Retaining Child Custody?
What is Joint Custody?
It’s one of the sadder parts of any divorce – determining child custody and visitation. In deciding which parent (or both) gets custody, the court takes into account a multitude of factors.
In almost all courts in every state, the standard is: “The child’s best interests.” In deciding child custody issues – this one aspect is given the highest priority.
Here’s a checklist of the most commonly used factors:
- The child’s age, sex, and mental and physical health
- The parent’s mental and physical health
- The parent’s lifestyle and other social factors, including whether the child is exposed to second-hand smoke and whether there is any history of child abuse
- The emotional bond between parent and child, as well as the parent’s ability to give the child guidance
- The parent’s ability to provide the child with food, shelter, clothing, and medical care
- The child’s established living pattern (school, home, community, religious institution)
- The quality of the child’s education
- The impact of changing the status quo in the child’s daily routine, and
- The child’s preference, if the child is above a certain age (usually about 12).
In many cases, there are no clear cut answers in determining which parent clearly “outranks” another in fulfilling these custodial factors. Each may be equally (or nearly) qualified in providing for the child’s welfare and well being.
In divorce and child custody law cases like these, the courts focus on which parent will provide the child with the more stable environment, including maintaining a healthy relationship with the other parent. When a child is young, special attention is given to the parent who has been the child’s primary caregiver. However, with older children, the parent who is best able to provide continuity in education, neighborhood life, religious institutions, and peer relationships may be awarded primary custody.
Also, the judge in child custody cases in Virginia will place great weight upon the fact if the children will be remaining in the home where they were raised and lived as a family, if they will be continuing in the same school, participate in their usual activities and generally enjoy their regular routines. A judge will be adverse to changing these normal physical locations, conditions and schedules.
Another factor that comes into play with child custody cases is when one parent moves out of the house, leaving the child or children with the remaining spouse. This can adversely affect the chances of the distant parent gaining custody – even if they left in order to avoid highly unpleasant or even dangerous situations.
If the situation is so volatile, then seriously consider taking the children with you. If you don’t, the court may properly assume you considered the options and believed the remaining spouse was a competent caregiver – regardless of the situation between the two parents. If you do leave with the children, file as quickly as possible in family court for temporary child custody and child support. Speed is of the essence, because if you don’t act first, the other spouse may go to court first and allege that the kids were taken without that spouse’s knowledge.
Family law judges don’t look very highly on a parent who removes the children from the home without seeking legal recognition. A judge may order the children be returned to the family home, pending future proceedings to determine physical custody.
In the past, it was customary for the courts to award custody of young children (about 5 years old or younger) to the mother when couples divorced. This “tender years” doctrine has been almost entirely replaced – either rejected outright or relegated to the role of tie-breaker if two otherwise fit parents request custody of their pre-school children
Every state now takes into consideration the fitness of both parents – the mother no longer automatically enjoys a de-facto privilege when custody is being determined. Most states require their courts determine custody on the basis of what’s in the children’s best interests, without regard to the parent’s gender.
Many divorcing parents do agree the mother will have custody after a separation or divorce, with the father exercising reasonable visitation rights. If this happens because both parents agree the mother has more time, a greater inclination in parenting, or a better understanding of the children’s daily needs – then all is well and good. But many times the father presumes the mother will automatically be awarded custody and never pursues the matter – or because the mother is more tenacious in seeking custody.
As a father, if you want to ask the court for physical custody, don’t let gender stereotypes stop you. If both you and the mother work full-time, and the kids have after-school care, you may both be on equal footing. In fact, if you have more flexible hours than the mother, you could be at an advantage. In any event, the judge will look at what’s best for the children in custody cases.
So if you as father think you are the better caregiver and should have primary custody – it’s up to you to convince the judge that it’s in the kids’ best interests to stay with you. If you present yourself as a willing and able parent, it will go a long way towards challenging any lingering prejudice against you as a father.
“Joint custody” pursuant to child custody law is when the court awards partial custody to both parents. Child custody law recognizes one of three forms when addressing joint custody:
- joint physical custody (children spend a substantial amount of time with each parent)
- joint legal custody (parents share decision-making on medical, educational, and religious questions involving the children), or
- both joint legal and joint physical custody.
These summaries are provided by the SRIS Law Group. They represent the firm’s unofficial views of the Justices’ opinions. The original opinions should be consulted for their authoritative content.