Child Custody & Visitation
Whether the parents are married or unmarried, the breakup of a relationship can be traumatic for children. Virginia courts recognize this fact and place a special emphasis on adhering to a “best interests of the child” standard in resolving the tough family law issues of child custody and visitation.
Our attorneys help people on all sides of this complex equation to find practical solutions that protect the best interests of their children. Child custody and visitation are emotional issues for parents. Under the legal standard of “the best interests of the child”, some of the relevant factors in determining custody include the relationship of the child to each parent, the child’s preferences (if the court deems the child old enough), the age of the child, and the child’s general health, welfare, and social behavior. The court will also consider evidence of domestic abuse. It is considered in the child’s best interest, in most cases, to continue receiving the care of both parents. Visitation time allows the non-custodial parent to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child. For this reason the court favors a parent who makes an effort to encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent.
While many people think that child custody has to do solely with the primary residence of the child, this only addresses “physical custody”. Another aspect is “legal custody” – the right of each parent to participate in important decisions about the child’s life, such as educational and medical decisions. Often the courts award legal custody to both parents through what is called “joint legal custody”, even if physical custody is awarded primarily to one parent. Court-ordered child support payments will be determined in part by the physical custody arrangement.
In many instances parents choose to resolve all custody and visitation issues through negotiation and/or mediation. If that is the case in your child custody dispute, then we will do everything in our power to negotiate a fair and reasonable parenting plan on your behalf. If negotiation fails and all or some of the issues remain unresolved, then our attorneys will not hesitate to go to court to protect your rights and your child’s welfare.