Fairfax follows methods outlined by the Virginia code when determining the best interest of the children in Fairfax custody cases. In the Virginia Code, there are a number of factors that the legislature requires every court to consider when making a determination related to custody and/or visitation. These factors include the age of each parent, the physical and mental condition of each parent, the existing relationship between each parent and each child, each parent’s ability to assess and meet the needs of the child, any history of family abuse, and other factors set forth in the code. To begin the custody process, contact an experienced child custody lawyer about your family’s case.
Role of the Court in Best Interest Cases
What the court is required to do is to look at each of the factors set forth in the Virginia law and apply those factors to the facts presented in the case to determine the best situation or the best custodial arrangement for the child or children in question. There is a great deal of subjectivity to this determination. Most judges would say that if one presents the same facts to two different judges, they could end up with different outcomes. Generally, the court is required to hear the evidence and consider that evidence against the list of factors set forth in Virginia law to make a determination about the best custodial arrangement for the children.
Common Considerations in Custody Cases
Any matter related to custody, visitation, or upbringing of the children that would be presented to the court is required to be decided based on determining the best interest of the children in Fairfax. This could include a physical custodial schedule. This could include a legal custody issue. If two parents disagree on whether a child should receive a major medical procedure, they would have the ability to submit to the court and see if they can get the judge to decide. In the event that that case got taken by a judge, that judge’s determination is going to be dictated by the best interest of the child standard.
An important factor to many judges is the relative willingness of each parent to foster a relationship between the children and the other parent. Factors that are not considered include any fault basis that may exist between the parents who are divorced that does not impact the children. If there is a proven allegation of adultery that did not impact the children, that relationship is likely to not have much of an impact on the custody determination. The court is not necessarily going to consider what each parent wants; the court is only concerned about what is best for the child or children.
Unpredictability of a Custody Decision
One thing that might be considered a pitfall in determining the best interest of the children in Fairfax, is one never knows which factor or factors any given judge will consider to be the most important in any given case. It is impossible to know for sure which factor and which fact applied to a factor is going to be the one that a judge focuses on. The reason that there is such a gray area when it comes to custody is because the legislature recognizes that every family and every situation is different. Therefore, putting a very strict formula to fight in a custody case would not necessarily be best for the children.
Changes in Custody
The main way factors of best interest of the child in Fairfax change is different needs based on the age of the child. When the child is very young, their needs are often centered around the home and maybe even around elementary education. When a child is older, their needs may be more focused on extracurricular activities, social activities, and applying to college.
As the parents move forward with their lives, changes can occur that will require an altering of the custodial schedule. These kinds of changes could be that one parent is relocating, has remarried, or has a new child. These kinds of new developments in life can change the situation for the child who is subject to the custody order. As this change happens, sometimes the custodial schedule needs to be altered accordingly.
What Children Want
There is no bright-light rule to giving a child the opportunity to voice their opinion on issues. The courts will consider hearing from a child who is of an appropriate age and maturity level. The suggested age is 12 years old. However, there are certain 12-year-olds who are not particularly mature. For that reason, the court may not hear from them. There are some children younger than 12 who might be unusually mature, in which case the court may hear from them. Generally, 12 years old is around the time that a judge may consider hearing directly from a child.
This is something seen more often in cases with children who are older. Regardless of what the child wants, the judge is still required to do what they believe is best for the child. For example, if a teenage child was involved in recreational use of drugs and there was one parent who has not provided much supervision and was a lot more permissive on this particular issue, the teenager may be permitted to testify and tell the judge in no uncertain terms that they want to be with the parent who happens to have the more lenient rules.
Help from a Lawyer
That attorney could look through the factors of best interest of the child in Fairfax with a potential client. The lawyer may elicit certain information from that client that would apply to the factors. They might discuss with the client who has been the primary caretaker for the children historically. They could review with their client where the children are in school, if the parents are living in separate households, and which household is most convenient for the children for getting them back and forth to school. An experienced attorney will be in a good position to give advice on this issue, because they will know the kinds of things to look for and the kinds of issues that judges tend to place greater weight on.