How is custody determined in Virginia?

In Virginia, parents are encouraged to create a plan that serves the best interests of their children. When parents cannot agree, state laws and precedents dictate how custody and visitation will be awarded. Our Fairfax child custody lawyers answer some of the most common questions when determining custody in Virginia.

how is custody determined in virginia

What types of custody are awarded in Virginia?

Virginia’s custody and visitation laws allow a judge to award legal and physical custody. Legal custody addresses a parent’s right to be involved in decisions around a child’s education, religious upbringing, and healthcare. Joint legal custody is granted to both parents in most instances.

Physical custody involves the child’s primary home and visitation. In most cases, the children will spend most of their time with one parent, but some custody cases result in a 50/50 division between parents. Most judges award joint legal and physical custody unless the child is at risk of harm or neglect, which can result in a sole custody order.

What factors are used to determine child custody in Virginia?

Your lawyer will discuss the important criteria the judge uses to ensure the children’s best interests and well-being are protected. These factors include:

  • Each child’s age and whether they are old enough to express their preferences
  • Each child’s mental and physical condition, including any special needs requirements
  • Each parent’s age, physical condition, and mental health
  • The relationship between each parent and each child
  • Each child’s existing and future needs
  • Each parent’s ability to communicate and cooperate
  • Any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, or substance abuse
  • Each parent’s expressed wishes to maintain a relationship with the child

Ideally, parents will work together to create a parenting plan, which the judge will review before your child custody hearing. Virginia law also allows those with a legitimate interest, such as grandparents, stepparents, and other family members, to receive visitation and custody rights when appropriate.

What are temporary custody orders?

During divorce and custody negotiations, the court may grant temporary custody orders (known as pendente lite) to stabilize the children around visitation, living arrangements, child support, and other issues. If one parent can show abuse or neglect by the other, you can request an emergency custody order to remove and protect the children until more permanent orders are issued.

How can Virginia child custody orders be modified?

To modify an existing child custody order, either parent must file a petition or a motion to amend with the court that issued the original order. The parent must present evidence supporting their reasons, benefit the child, and plans to honor visitation or custody with the other parent.

If the custodial parent wishes to move the child out of state, they are subject to the  Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). This law governs which court retains the right to hear modification proceedings. Typically, the original court still has jurisdiction, but your child custody modification attorney can advise you of any deviations.

How is child custody decided for unmarried parents?

When parents are unmarried, custody negotiations can be more complicated. Only the parent who gave birth is granted parental rights. The other parent must complete one of two actions to establish their legal paternity and claim their rights:

After establishing paternity, the parent can begin legal and physical custody negotiations. They will be given the same consideration as the other parent for custody and support orders.

Contact Select Law Partners PLLC to learn more

The Select Law Partners PLLC team will help you understand how to establish custody in Virginia, including how to negotiate a manageable parenting agreement and collaborate with a contentious parent. We serve as a calm voice of logic during heated discussions, ensuring the child’s best interests are served per state law. Schedule a case review with a Fairfax child custody attorney by calling (855) 541-4867 today.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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