Virginia Beach Child Custody Attorney
Trust an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in Virginia Beach
In a divorce case, child custody and visitation orders are often the most hotly contested issues. As a parent, you are deeply concerned about your child’s well-being and future. It is imperative that you hire an experienced family law firm to represent you to secure the most favorable outcome possible.
With more than two decades of experience, The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller has helped our clients obtain the results they deserve. Our Virginia Beach child custody attorney understands the sensitive nature of children being involved in divorce and the importance of ensuring a court’s orders are enforced after the divorce.
Virginia Child Custody Laws
Virginia child custody laws allow for joint legal and physical custody, as well as grandparent visitation rights. But before determining custody, the court often gives substantial weight to the child’s best interests.
How is Child Custody Determined in Virginia?
Factors included in determining a child’s best interests include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The age, physical, and mental condition of the child
- The age, physical, and mental condition of each parent
- The child’s wishes, if he or she is of a sufficient age (generally age 12 or older)
- The child’s needs, such as the relationship he or she has with his or her parents, siblings, and extended family members
- The role each parent plays in the child’s upbringing
- Any history of family abuse or violence
- The financial standing of each parent
- Each parent’s willingness to foster a close relationship between the child and the other parent
Types of Custody
There are several different types of child custody in Virginia. The most commonly awarded one is joint custody followed by primary custody.
Joint legal custody is when both parents share in making decisions affecting their child’s life, such as education, medical care, and religious upbringing.
Joint physical custody is when a child lives with each parent for a significant period of time. If there is no court order in place, both parents have equal physical rights to their child, whether they are married or not.
Sole custody is granted by the court, you will have both legal and physical custody, making you his or her sole caretaker and giving you the power to make all major decisions about your child’s life. However, unless your ex-spouse has been abusive, convicted of a felony crime, or is otherwise unfit, he or she will likely retain visitation rights. The court can determine when and where the visits occur and whether they need to be supervised. If your ex-partner is keeping your child from you without a valid reason, you can take legal action by filing a petition or getting the police involved.
Sole custody with visitations means that the child lives with the custodial parent and has visitations with the noncustodial parent.
Other Types of Child Custody:
Split custody happens when there are multiple children who do not live in the same place. For example, one parent could have full custody of a child and the other parent would have full custody of the other child.
Temporary custody is given when a child’s parents separate in order to settle the status of child custody. It provides a formal visitation and custody agreement based on the child’s best interest. This is not the final custody arrangement that is decided by the courts.
Emergency custody is issued during urgent situations where a child is at risk of being harmed by a parent or guardian. Those with legitimate interests, like family members, can apply for an emergency custody order through the Virginia Beach Family Law Courts.
How to Get Sole Child Custody in Virginia
Recall that there are two types of custody in the state: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to decision-making authority. A legal custodian, for instance, has final say on healthcare and educational matters. Physical custody refers to having actual possession of the child. The two forms of custody can be mixed and matched in several ways. One parent could have sole physical custody but share legal custody, and so forth. When you want sole custody of your child, you must be clear about what that means. Do you want sole authority on important decisions, sole physical custody, or both?
Receiving any form of sole custody is difficult, especially sole physical custody. Even parents deemed “unfit” can receive supervised visits. Unfit parents are abusive, neglectful, or otherwise dangerous to the children. The state can work with such parents, giving them counsel and actions plans, building up their parenting skills. When an unfit parent expresses a genuine desire to do better, they will probably still have legally sanctioned time with the kids. The state doesn’t like to completely break up families if it can avoid doing so.
There are, however, outside circumstances that could make sole legal custody possible.
Reasons you could receive sole legal custody:
Complete Communication Breakdown
If you find it impossible to work with your ex, sole legal custody may be your only option. When two people can’t agree, it’s unrealistic to assume they’ll come to terms on important decisions that directly affect the child.
The Other Parent’s Behavior
Parents have a legal obligation to follow custody plans. This is true regardless of whether custody was court-ordered or agreed upon by the parents. Either way, the plan was sent to, verified by, and officialized by the court. It is a binding contract. If one parent is restricting another’s access to the kids, they could lose custody privileges, including legal custody.
This is also true when a parent is guilty of parental alienation. This is a spiteful practice where one parent turns the kids against the other. Guilty parties could lose custody privileges, particularly for legal custody. Alienation is another form of communication breakdown, only it occurs between the parents and children, not between the adults.
Any genuine instances of abuse can result in a loss of either form of custody.
Can a Child Choose Their Primary Custodian in Virginia?
Children in Virginia can sometimes choose which parent they want to live with, but they must meet certain criteria first. It should be noted that this "choice" is more of an opinion given by the child that the court will consider.
The state has no standardized age minimum for this choice or opinion. Normally, it considers the opinions of a child around 14 or older, but that can fluctuate. Children as young as 8 could be granted this privilege, but even kids older than 14 could be denied.
Ultimately, the court must determine whether it trusts the child’s reasoning. The child must have a level of intelligence, maturity, and understanding to sway the court. If, for instance, a child simply wants to live with the more lenient parent, that’s not enough to give them choosing power.
The state also protects kids who want to choose their primary custodian. Children can meet with the judge one-on-one to plead their case. They can even make their argument into a camera with no one else around. Normally, there must at least be a court reporter present to take the statement, but a judge can remove even them when a child claims abuse.
Typically, kids can’t go completely against the original order. For instance, if a parent has visiting rights, kids can’t deny or block that parent. If a child continually refuses to keep their visitation schedule, a judge can order therapy to help correct the issue. However, if the child is suffering abuse, visitation can be blocked or supervised.
Let Our Virginia Beach Child Custody Lawyer Protect Your Rights & Best Interests
The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller offer clients skilled and comprehensive family law services. When you obtain the legal services of our Virginia Beach child custody attorney, you will receive personalized case strategies, quality representation, and a lawyer who will pursue the best results possible. Our team is skilled in divorce cases and can help establish child custody and child support agreements.
We do everything with the utmost compassion and respect to help you through this difficult time. We provide quality representation to clients throughout Southeastern Virginia, including Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, and all of the Hampton Roads area.
Whether you need legal assistance to come to an agreement on matters of child custody and visitation or to modify a current court order, contact us and request a consultation today! Call (757) 267-4949.
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