During a divorce or separation, a determination must be made regarding the custody of the children involved. This process can often be complicated and emotional for parents. A Virginia child custody lawyer can help you to understand and navigate the process. For more on the various factors involved in these types of cases and the steps you can take, consult with a family law attorney today.
Services an Attorney Can Provide
In Virginia, there is a preference for custody arrangements to be made outside of the court. This typically involves an agreement arrived at by the parents, or an agreement made through the assistance of a mediator. An experienced child custody attorney in Virginia can help individuals understand what their legal rights are in the situation and help them work with the other party to come to an agreement.
A child custody lawyer can also help couples work with a mediator to come up with an appropriate child custody arrangement. If an agreement cannot be made outside of court, a family law attorney can represent their interests in court by ensuring that all factors in their favor are presented properly to the court. Additionally, attorneys can assist couples with the process of requesting a modification to an existing child custody order in certain circumstances.
Factors in Custody Cases
Virginia courts, first and foremost, consider the best interest of the child in making a child custody determination. The court may award either joint or sole custody in a case, based upon the best interest of the child, and may also award visitation rights to a party.
The courts consider a number of factors in making a determination. A Virginia child custody lawyer will advise their client of the factors that are in their favor and will ensure that proper weight and emphasis is given to those factors. These factors include:
- Encouraging contact with both parents when appropriate
- Which parent has previously served as the primary parent
- Age, physical, and mental condition of the child and the parents
- The preference of the child, but generally only if the child is 12 years of age or older
- The role of each parent in the child’s life
- Any history of abuse
- Each parent’s willingness to maintain the relationship of the child with the other parent
The court will also consider any other factor that it is relevant to the specific case at hand. A Virgina custody attorney will help clients build a compelling argument in favor of custody supported by the legally appropriate and relevant factors that are in their favor.
How is Child Custody Determined?
Child custody is determined based on the best interest of the child, and the Virginia legislature has set forth factors that the court is required to consider in making a determination about the best interest of a child in a custody scenario. These factors include the age and health of each of the parents, the age and health of the child, the relationship that exists between each parent and each child, the role that each has played in raising the child, and the role that each parent will play in the future.
One of the most important factors, one that can be problematic in custody litigation, is the propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact with the other parent. Sometimes parents will take out their anger at each other through the children, and the court is set up to counter this behavior. It is really important for parties in the midst of a custody dispute to do their best to foster a positive relationship between the other party and the children.
How an Attorney Can Help
Virginia child custody lawyers can assist a party in assessing the factors the courts typically look at the most when determining custody. A lawyer could advise a party about what to do or not do knowing the judge is going to make a decision based on the behavior of the parties.
In addition, because there is no calculation or formula for determining custody, lawyers can be very helpful based on their past case experiences by suggesting various custody scenarios that might work for the family. An experienced Virginia child custody attorney will ensure that all relevant facts are included and emphasized at each stage of the process and will advocate on your behalf to ensure your parental rights are properly protected.