If you are anticipating going through a divorce in Lynchburg, Virginia, you might have concerns about child custody decisions. As parents, our children are the most important part of our lives. Child custody and visitation issues are often some of the most difficult experiences that a parent can face. Child custody refers to a determination of whom the child will primarily live with after the divorce.
Lynchburg Judges Consider the Best Interest of the Child
Knowing that a judge who you do not know personally will determine whether your child will live with you or not can be extremely stressful. When Lynchburg judges determine custody issues, they will make their decision based on the best interest of the children. Keep in mind that child custody and visitation orders are never final. They are always subject to modification or revision by a Virginia court.
Virginia Courts Should Not Prefer a Mother or Father
When making custody determinations, Virginia courts should not prefer or favor a mother or father. Instead, judges are legally required to consider specific factors found in Virginia law. Judges must consider all of these factors to determine the best interest of the child.
Virginia Courts Prefer to Give Custody to the Natural Parents
Grandparents, aunts, and uncles can seek custody of children. Virginia courts presume that the natural parents should receive custody of the child unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary. In some cases, when both natural parents are unable to properly care for their children, the grandparents or other relatives may need to step in and take over when it comes to custody.
Understanding the Best Interests of the Child Standard
The most important consideration in any custody and visitation case is the “best interest of the child.” This consideration applies regardless of any agreement that the parents wish to enter regarding child custody and visitation. The court considers a number of different factors when determining the “best interests of the child.” These standards can be found in Virginia Code 20-124.3.
Factors Involved in Determining the Best Interest of the Child
When judges determine the best interest of a child for the purposes of determining child custody or child visitation, judges must consider the following factors.
- The physical and mental condition of the child as well as the child’s age.
- The child’s developmental needs
- The age and physical and mental condition of each parent
- The relationship between each child and each parent, including the positive involvement of each parent in each child’s life.
- The ability to accurately assess and meet the intellectual, emotional, and physical needs of the child
- The needs of each child, including the important relationships of the child with siblings, peers, and extended family members
- The role that each parent has played in the upbringing and care of the child and the role that each parent will play in the future
- The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s relationship and contact with the other parent
- Whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent visitation and access to the child
- The willingness of each parent to maintain a continuing and close relationship with each child
- The ability of each parent to resolve disputes and cooperated with the other parent
- The reasonable preferences of each child as long as the court determines that the child is of reasonable intelligence, age, understanding, and experience to express such a preference
- Any history of sexual abuse or family abuse. When the court finds any history of sexual or family abuse, it may disregard the factor related to each parent supporting a relationship with the other co-parent
- Any other factor the court determines to be necessary and proper
Understanding a Lynchburg Judge’s Child Custody Decision
After a Lynchburg judge has evaluated and considered all of the factors, he or she will make a decision that is in the best interest of the child or children. By law, the judge must communicate to the parents the basis of his or her decision, either in writing or orally. Judges must provide some reasoning about their analysis of the factors. The court may order that the parents exchange the child at an appropriate meeting place, depending on the outcome of the judge’s decision.
Modifying a Child Custody or Visitation Decree
Sometimes judges do not make a decision that is in the best interest of the child. Or, circumstances might change in the lives of one or both parents, requiring a modification of the child custody or visitation decree. Virginia judges can modify a decree on their own, when necessary. Or, the parents can file a petition to modify the agreement as the circumstances of one or both parents and the benefit of the children may require.
Protecting Your Child During a Lynchburg Divorce
If you are facing a hostile or volatile divorce, or if you are involved in a contested custody issue, we recommend obtaining legal representation. Even when your custody issue is not contentious, hiring an experienced child custody lawyer can be extremely helpful. At the Straw Law Firm, our lawyers have the experience needed to represent you and your interests.
The Value of Speaking to a Lynchburg Family Law Attorney
There is a large body of law when it comes to Virginia child custody and visitation cases. This body of law contains interpretations of the relevant statutes as well as other factors that are applicable to child custody determinations.
Whether you are facing an initial custody and visitation determination, or you need to petition the court to modify the decree, it is wise to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney. At Straw Law Firm, we handle all different types of cases and issues involved in child custody disputes.
We handle parental fitness challenges, child custody cases, and visitation cases. Contact our Lynchburg law office as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.