Child Custody Attorney in Lynchburg & Forest, VA
When there is a divorce involving children, child custody and visitation can be among the most contentious and emotionally-charged issues. This is also an issue that can come up in a parentage case. Parents are always encouraged to work together to come up with an arrangement that is workable for all parties involved. However, when deciding who gets custody of the children, there are many times when parents do not see eye to eye. In such cases, it will be up to the court to make the final determination.
If you are facing a divorce and there are children involved, it is very important to have strong legal counsel in your corner advocating forcefully for your rights and interests, and for the best interests of your children. At the Straw Law Firm, we have in-depth experience helping clients in Virginia with child custody and visitation issues and all other types of family legal matters. We know that custody can be a difficult issue on which to reach an agreement with the other parent. We take the time to listen and thoroughly understand our clients’ unique needs and circumstances, so we can develop the most practical and effective legal solution to fully protect their interests with an eye toward preserving delicate family relationships.
Factors Used to Determine Child Custody
Virginia does not automatically favor either the mother or the father in determining who receives custody of the children. Their sole concern is the best interests of the child, and there are several factors the courts may use to make this determination:
- The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
- The age and physical and mental condition of the child;
- The relationship each parent has with the child;
- The level of involvement each parent currently has in the child’s life;
- The child’s current living situation;
- The ability of the parents to communicate and resolve parenting issues;
- The needs of the child;
- The preferences of the child (if the child is old enough and mature enough to provide meaningful input);
- The location of each parent and the distance between the two;
- Any history of domestic violence or abuse;
- Any other factors that the court deems necessary to determine the best interests of the child.
Types of Child Custody in Virginia
Custody refers to two general areas:
The parent with legal custody is the one who has the right to make important decisions on behalf of the child. This may include decisions regarding healthcare, religious upbringing, travel, what school the child will attend, and what extracurricular activities the child is allowed to be involved in. There are two types of legal custody:
- Joint Custody: With joint legal custody, both parents have the right to make major decisions on the child’s behalf. This arrangement works best when parents have the ability to communicate effectively with each other and confer on these important decisions. The courts often prefer this type of co-parenting arrangement, because it allows both parents to have equal input around the decisions that will shape the child’s future.
- Sole Custody: Sole legal custody may be best in cases in which the parents are not able to communicate effectively and reach decisions together on fundamental issues regarding the child. With this arrangement, one parent is given final decision-making authority in these areas. In some cases, one parent may be given decision-making authority over certain areas while decision-making authority goes to the other parent for different areas. For example, the mother may decide religious upbringing, where to send the child to school, and extra-curricular activities, while the father may be in charge of health care.
This refers to the parent the child resides with. If one parent has sole physical custody, that means the child lives solely with one of the parents. Parents may also have shared physical custody. With this arrangement, the child spends a significant number of overnights with each parent (in some cases, close to an equal amount) throughout the year.
Shared physical custody can be accomplished a number of ways. For example, if it is a straight 50/50 shared custody arrangement, the child could spend alternating weeks with each parent, or switch back and forth every two weeks. The parents could also come up with a rotating schedule, such as three days of the week with one parent, and four days of the week with the other parent, and vice versa the following week.
Some shared custody arrangements may not be 50/50. Depending on the circumstances and what is workable for all parties involved, a 60/40, 70/30, or 80/20 arrangement may be more suitable. There are also other creative approaches that families have come up with. For example, some parents have decided that it is best for the children if they live in the same residence of all the time, while the parents are the ones rotating back and forth based on their pre-determined schedule.
Visitation for the Non-Custodial Parent
If one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent is usually granted liberal visitation rights. For example, the non-custodial parent may have the child on weekends or every other weekend, as well as certain holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions throughout the year. As mentioned earlier, the best thing is for the parents to decide on a visitation schedule that everyone can agree on. If the parents cannot work it out themselves, then this again is decided by the court.
In most cases, the court will grant visitation rights to the non-custodial parent. However, if the court decides that there is reason to believe that granting visitation would endanger the child or would otherwise not be in keeping with his/her best interests, they may deny visitation or grant only limited/supervised visitation.
Contact our Skilled Virginia Child Custody Lawyers
Child custody and visitation are issues that can be the source of major conflicts during a divorce or parentage case. To come to a peaceable and workable arrangement that everyone can live with, it is always best for parents to put their emotions aside and focus on the best interests of their children.
At the Straw Law Firm, we understand that no two situations are exactly alike. Sometimes, you can work out a custody agreement with the other parent without the involvement of the courts. Other times, bringing your case before the family court may be the only option. Whatever your circumstance, we are here to provide strong legal counsel and moral support, and we will work hard to fully protect your interests.
To schedule a consultation with our firm, call us today at (434) 595-3581. You may also message us online or stop by our Forest, VA office in person at your convenience.