A Fairfax child custody lawyer can make the custody process much easier to navigate. Such an attorney can advise his or her client of the steps that should and should not be taken with respect to the children. As child custody determinations are very emotional for all parties involved, and straightforward advice from an attorney regarding the rights and boundaries of the parties can play a significant role in preventing a party from taking actions that may hurt him or her at trial.

From the outset, an experienced child custody attorney in the Fairfax area can assist in deciding how to approach certain child-related decisions, how to approach the other part, and how to help or share the children. The manner in which the parties handle each of these decisions can have a significant impact on the process. It is important for any party to a child custody proceeding to have a Virginia family law attorney there to guide you through that process.

Factors Determining Custody

Virginia law is constructed such that the best interests of the children, rather than the parents, are considered in determining custody. As such, courts are required to evaluate the facts of the case and the interests of the children involved before determining the custody arrangements.

The factors considered in this determination include the health of the children, the willingness of each parent to foster the relationship between the children and the other parent, and, in some cases, the preferences of the children. Thus, the court must examine and consider the evidence for each relevant factor and apply this evidence to the statutory law. Only after this process can the court make a determination regarding the appropriate custody arrangement.

Legal vs. Physical Custody

It is important that a person considering custody arrangements in Fairfax, VA be aware of the difference between legal and physical custody and talk about what is important to them with their Fairfax child custody lawyer.

The legal custody of a child determines who has the legal right to decision-making for that child. The legal custodian of a child has the right to make important decisions regarding education, medical care, and religion. While the non-custodial parent may be able to voice an opinion on such decisions, he or she does not have decision-making authority in these matters.  Often times, parents share legal custody, which means that both are to be involved in making major decisions impacting the child.

Physical custody, on the other hand, relates to the time sharing arrangement of the children. Often, a primary physical custodian will be designated, despite the fact that both parents may share legal custody. Under such circumstances, the child will live with the primary physical custodian for a majority of the time.

Avoiding a Volatile Custody Battle

Volatile custody battles are avoided when both parents make efforts to be cooperative with one another and to approach the custody process in a positive manner.  Depending on the ages of the children, it may be appropriate for the parents to seek the services of a counselor who can advise the parents of appropriate approaches to the custody process. However, the most significant precautionary step parents can take to avoid a volatile custody battle is the creation of a cooperative atmosphere in which emotions are regulated and the best interests of the children are considered.

Custody Arrangement Modifications

Modifications can always be made to custody arrangements, so long as the children are subject to custody. Children are subject to custody and visitation orders up until the time they are 18 years old. Thus, alterations can be made at any point during this time period if a material change occurs that impacts the manner in which custody and visitation should be handled.

The parent seeking such a modification or their child custody lawyer in Fairfax must file a motion with the court asking the court to re-examine the custodial arrangements. The threshold issue the moving party must show is that, since the date of entry of the last custody order, there has been a material change that warrants altering this order.

How Parents Can Help

When handling the child custody part of a divorce, a parent should consider the needs of the child or children involved. For example, a parent and their Fairfax child custody attorney should consider the age of the children, as a child’s age may impact the amount of time he or she can go without seeing or interacting with the non-primary parent. Generally, very small children do better with brief and regular interactions with the non-primary parent, while older children can wait longer periods of time between visitation without experiencing negative developmental effects.

Additionally, a parent should consider the manner in which his or her interactions with the other parent, particularly during the divorce, may impact the child or children involved. If a parent denigrates the other parent to the child or children, such denigration can not only negatively impact the child or children but also negatively impact the court’s view of that parent’s child custody case. Consult with a family lawyer in Virginia to ensure that you and your child’s best interests are kept in mind during this process.

Uniqueness of Same-Sex Marriages

The legal definition of same-sex relationships is something that continues to evolve and evolve differently in different states. Thus, custody disputes between same-sex partners can be much more complicated than they are between opposite-sex partners. For example, a non-biological parent of a child who has not legally adopted that child does not necessarily get any recognition under Virginia law as a parent. If that person is not a parent, they may not be able to ask for custody. When same-sex couples are going through separation in a relationship where there are children, it is even more important for them to seek a Fairfax child custody lawyer.

Impact of Biological Relation in Same-Sex Couples

In a case in which a biological parent is involved in a custodial dispute, if the other parent has not created a legal relationship by adopting that child, the non-biological or non-adoptive parent may not have any rights to that child. In a recent case laid out in a local jurisdiction for a same-sex couple, the non-biological mother was shut out from all custody and visitation access because she did not have a biological or legal relationship with the child.

Divorce and Custody in Same-Sex Couples

Divorce is a separate issue with same-sex couples because there are going to be other factors to be considered in terms of how the relationship was legally created and solemnized.

With regard to custody, if the adoption has been completed so that both parents have either a biological or a legal connection, they tend to be on the same footing as an opposite-sex couple. However, because same-sex couples having children is relatively new and newly-acknowledged in Virginia, it is wise for a same-sex couple to seek a Fairfax child custody lawyer in a custody dispute to navigate these issues in Virginia courts the best way they can.