Judges must determine what is in the best interest of a child in each specific situation of any divorce or separation requiring child custody. This interest is determined by taking into account any relevant factors regarding the child’s life, based on evidence and statutory factors regarding what type of custody arrangement will be in the best interest of the child, and allow the child to thrive. The needs of the child must always be the central focus of each custody and/or visitation case, and the help of an experienced child custody lawyer in Virginia is essential in determining the best interest in a child custody case.
How Best Interest is Determined
The law charges the court with determining the appropriate custody arrangement if there are minor children involved when the marriage is ending. The court is required to consider the evidence presented by both parents regarding a number of different factors about how the child’s life has been going and how it will continue into the future in regards to their education, development, nutrition, health care, et cetera. The health and safety of the children are always paramount.
Custody will not be granted if there is any evidence the child is unsafe with one parent or the other. The emotional and developmental needs of the child are also extremely important. The law favors having both parents in the child’s life maintaining stability at home, family, school, and community, but the court will hear evidence from both parents regarding a number of different factors and will take all that evidence into account in determining what is in the best interest of the child.
Factors that the court must consider include the age of the children, as well as the ages of the parents and their physical and mental condition, the existing relationship between both parents and the children, and the needs of the children, which is especially important for children with special needs. They also look at the roles that each parent has played in their children’s lives as well their willingness to work with the other parent and to ensure that the other parent remains in the child’s life as well as the preference of the child for which parent they would prefer to spend most physical time with.
There are things that will not necessarily be determined or that will not be considered in determining what is in the best interest of the child. Although, they do play a role in child support payments and alimony payments. Those are separate issues that are determined to be in the best interests of the child, but they are separate from the custody determination. It is difficult to say what will not be considered because the law does require the judge to consider anything that might be relevant in that specific situation.
Factors the Court Will Not Consider
The court is not going to consider, for the most part, the needs, desires, or conveniences of the parents when determining the best interest of the children. Any parent should know that part of being a parent is making a person’s needs and considerations secondary to children, and that is a theory that Virginia law espouses.
Even though a parent may say that a certain custody scenario would be best because they have to work somewhere specific and have certain responsibilities, the court is not going to consider that as much as the court is going to consider what the children’s needs are and how best to meet those needs.
The best interest of the child is the legal standard that the judge must keep in mind when determining the most appropriate custody arrangement, including the visitation schedule as well as any pendente lite orders, which are temporary orders determining custody, visitation, or those kinds of things while the divorce proceedings are continuing. Any court order that is going to affect the child’s whole life as a result of the divorce needs to be entered into what is the best interest of the child, and a lawyer can help the best interest of the child when two people are undergoing a divorce.
Benefits of a Lawyer
A custody lawyer is going to know all the factors that need to be considered and which factors judges may tend to place more weight on when determining the best interest of the children in Virginia child custody cases. That attorney will be able to assist the parent in putting together the evidence that is most favorable to that parent’s case in light of the considerations that the court is supposed to make before deciding on a custodian’s role.