Resolving the issues of child custody and visitation are often the most difficult aspect of family law matters, and child custody is often the crucial issue during a divorce. Unlike property division or support issues, there is no way to place a dollar value on a custody case, because the well-being of a child is priceless. It is imperative to have experienced and knowledgeable representation when dealing with issues of child custody and visitation.
The attorneys with The Reed Law Firm, P.L.L.C. are experienced child custody attorneys, and are compassionate and understanding advocates who understand the great emotional issues often involved in child custody litigation.
How is child custody determined in Virginia?
In some cases, practical considerations alone guide the determination of custody and visitation arrangements, since work schedules and other time commitments of the parents cannot be ignored. Regardless of the circumstances of a particular family, a court applies its focus in any custody dispute to arrangements intended to protect the best interests of the children.
In Virginia, the court is guided by one standard, “the best interest of the child.” In making this determination, the court must determine all of the statutory factors enumerated in Virginia Code § 20-124.3. In any case in which custody or visitation of minor children is at issue, the court may order an independent mental health or psychological evaluation to assist the court in its determination of the best interests of the child.
What child custodial arrangements are possible in Virginia?
There are two separate and distinct types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody relates to major decision-making responsibility for the children. The court may award “joint legal custody” where both parents have a role in making decisions for the child, or “sole legal custody” where one parent is ultimately responsible for making decisions in the child’s best interests. Physical custody relates to where the children spend their time. “Parenting time” is another term gaining popularity. The term is used to describe physical custody and/or visitation. “Parenting Plans” are another device and are gaining popularity in the arena of child custody and visitation.
Despite popular belief, physical custody of a child will not be given to a parent as a reward, or deprived from a parent as a punishment. Rather, custody will be awarded based upon consideration of the statutory factors, and a determination of “the best interest of the child.” The parent who does not receive physical custody of the child, the “non-custodial parent,” will receive visitation with the child. A visitation schedule will be set by the court, if the parents cannot voluntarily agree upon satisfactory arrangements.
Child custody and visitation are always modifiable, based upon a “material change in circumstances” after the date of entry of the last custody/visitation order. For more information on this topic, please see our Family Law Frequently Asked Questions page.
For more information on child custody and visitation, and to obtain specific advice on the laws applicable to your situation, please contact us to schedule a consultation.