How Court-Ordered Child Custody Arrangements Work (Part A)If you are going through a difficult divorce, such proceedings can only be made more stressful when children are involved. Virginia divorce laws are designed to protect the best interests of a child. It is in your best interests however, to fully understand Virginia's child custody process and how such decisions are made.
How Virginia Child Custody and Visitation Rights are Assigned
As in most other states, Virginia child custody and visitation rights are decided by the court. The court is tasked with keeping the best interests of the child at the forefront of their custody decisions. Ideally, the court should order frequent contact between both parents and their children. Additionally, both parents should be included in the continued upbringing of the child unless evidence is provided to the contrary.
The above statements are somewhat flexible; Virginia divorce laws allow the court to award either parent joint or sole legal and physical custody. The court uses 10 factors when deciding which type of child custody should be awarded to which parent.
These 10 factors include:
- The age of the child, as well as the child's physical and mental condition.
- The age of each parent, as well as each parent's physical and mental health.
- The strength of the relationship between each parent and each child.
- The child's needs.
- The past, present and future role of each parent in the upbringing of the child.
- Each parent's propensity to actively maintain the child's relationship with the other parent.
- Each parent's relative willingness and ability to keep up a relationship with the child, including the ability to calmly resolve disputes having to do with the child.
- If the child is both old enough and competent enough, the child's preference will be taken into account.
- Any history of abuse; and
- Any other factors deemed worthy of consideration by the court.
A permanent Virginia child custody and visitation decision can take months or even years to be completed. This does not mean you will be helpless for those months or years, Virginia divorce laws require the court to promptly issue a temporary custody order. Such an order would be in place until a final decision is made.
However, that temporary order could become far more than "temporary" over time.
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