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Virginia Child Custody Attorneys

Assisting clients with child custody cases in Virginia

Virginia Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Courts and Virginia Circuit Courts

The Child Custody Laws In Virginia Information Center, sponsored by SRIS, P.C. A Virginia law firm with client meeting locations in Hanover, Lynchburg, Manassas, Richmond, Virginia Beach, Virginia, that handles Virginia Child Custody issues and cases.

If you wish to consult a SRIS, P.C. Virginia attorney about seeking joint legal custody, sole legal custody, shared physical custody or primary physical custody in Virginia, please call us at 888-437-7747

A Virginia lawyer of SRIS, P.C. will gladly consult with you regarding your child custody case in Virginia and advise you about your based on the child custody laws in Virginia. Our Virginia attorneys understand that custody of a child or children is one of the most important things for a parent. We are here to help you with your Virginia child custody case.

To learn more about some of the Child Custody Laws In Virginia:

  • VA Code § 20-124.1. Definitions
  • VA Code § 20-146.5. Effect of child custody determination
  • VA Code § 20-124.3. Best interests of the child; visitation

Virginia Child Custody Issues:

  • Moving Children Out Of Virginia
  • Factors Determining Child Custody in Virginia
  • Separation and Child Custody In Virginia
  • What do you do?
  • Sharing Child Custody in Virginia
  • Co-Habitation and Adultery – Living with the Consequences
  • The “War on Drugs” Enters Family Court
  • Tobacco Use and Child Custody in Virginia
  • Changing the Child’s Last Name in Virginia
  • Custody Battles Over State Lines – Who Decides?

Virginia Child Custody Law § 20-124.1. Definitions

As used in this chapter:

“Joint child custody” in Virginia means (i) joint legal custody where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child even though the child’s primary residence may be with only one parent, (ii) joint physical custody where both parents share physical and custodial care of the child, or (iii) any combination of joint legal and joint physical custody which the court deems to be in the best interest of the child.

“Sole custody” means that one person retains responsibility for the care and control of a child and has primary authority to make decisions concerning the child.

Virginia Child Custody Law § 20-146.5. Effect of child custody determination

A child custody determination made by a court of the Commonwealth of Virginia that had jurisdiction under this act binds all persons who have been served in accordance with the laws of this Commonwealth or notified in accordance with § 20-146.7 or who have submitted to the jurisdiction of the court, and who have been given an opportunity to be heard. As to those persons, the determination is conclusive as to all decided issues of law and fact except to the extent the determination is modified by a court properly having jurisdiction.

Virginia Child Custody Law § 20-124.3. Best interests of the child factors in Virginia; visitation

In determining best interests of a child in Virginia for purposes of determining child custody or visitation arrangements in Virginia, including any pendente lite orders pursuant to § 20- 103, the court shall consider the following:

  1. The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child’s changing developmental needs;
  2. The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
  3. The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child;
  4. The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child, including but not limited to siblings, peers and extended family members;
  5. The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;
  6. The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;
  7. The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;
  8. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference;
  9. Any history of family abuse as that term is defined in § 16.1-228. If the court finds such a history, the court may disregard the factors in subdivision 6; and
  10. Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.

The judge shall communicate to the parties the basis of the decision either orally or in writing.

FAQs about Child Custody Laws in Virginia Answered:

It’s one of the biggest issues in any divorce: Who get’s custody of the kids? This can also be one of the most contentious and heart wrenching issue in a custody case, both for the parents and the children.

Child custody in Virginia (and in every other state) is guided by The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA). Basically, the state which is most closely associated with the child gets jurisdiction over the child custody case.

Within Virginia itself, the Virginia Circuit Courts & the Virginia Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court are the ones enforcing this act and hear child custody cases. They have the power to override any previous child custody agreement if in their opinion the agreement isn’t in the child’s best interest.

Moving Children Out Of Virginia

Some parents in Virginia, in anticipation of a divorce, pick up their kids and move out of Virginia. Barring some kind of restraining order or state law to the contrary, either parent can move taking the children with them. But unless there is abuse or other extenuating circumstances – this usually isn’t such a good idea.

First is the divorce itself: You have to establish residency in the new state . That can take anywhere from 3 to 12 months.

Second, even though you may satisfy the requirements to file for divorce in the new state, that doesn’t automatically mean local child custody and child support laws will apply. Plus, if your spouse is still in Virginia, they may file child custody papers in Virginia before your new residency takes effect. This will force you to travel back and forth to Virginia to defend your decisions there. Plus, you may well have to go through the actual divorce proceedings in Virginia as well.

The states realize that one parent might take the kids and move across state lines or even across the country, just to make things more difficult for the remaining spouse. The child custody laws in Virginia are geared to avoid that possibility.

Virginia courts usually claim jurisdiction if Virginia was the child’s home state within the last six months, even if the child no longer lives in Virginia because one parent took them out of The Commonwealth of Virginia to a new location.

If you’re planning a divorce, it’s best to consult with a local Virginia divorce attorney before picking up and moving out with the children.

Factors Determining Child Custody in Virginia

Some parents when planning to file for divorce move out of the house – leaving the children behind with the other spouse. If you want or expect to file for child custody in Virginia – this is a bad idea.

When determining who gets custody of the child in Virginia, the courts take a dim view of the parent who left the remaining spouse and children behind. In Virginia, status quo is an important consideration for the courts, and they’ll make it a preference when awarding child custody in Virginia.

Unless there is some extenuating circumstance, such as physical or mental abuse – or some serious problem with the arrangements already in place, Virginia courts will frequently leave well enough alone. In Virginia, if you left your children with the other parent, that’s seen as tacit approval of that parent’s parental fitness.

In Virginia, if custody of your child is important to you – don’t willingly leave the children with the other parent for more than a night or two. (Of course, if you’re called away on business – that’s a different matter.) But, if you’re at all afraid the children aren’t safe alone with the other parent, leaving them alone with that spouse for ANY length of time is a poor choice in Virginia.

If that’s truly the case – seek immediate legal counsel from a Virginia child custody lawyer, for both your own safety and the safety of the children.

Separation and Child Custody Issues

Child custody issues in Virginia get more problematic when the parents are separated but not divorced. It’s not uncommon for one parent to move out of Virginia, seeing the children for short visits. Then they’ll file for divorce and custody in their home state, hoping for a better outcome.

What do you do?

Immediately contact a qualified Virginia child custody lawyer in your community to discuss your situation. The Virginia six month residency rule still applies. If you and your child resided in Virginia for the past six months, then the Commonwealth of Virginia will still have “home state” jurisdiction in crafting custody orders.

However, you may first need to contest the custody action in the other state. Although the new state likely can still order a divorce, child custody in Virginia is a different matter.

Sharing Child Custody in Virginia

In Virginia, as in most states, any custody or parenting arrangement must be in the “best interests of the child.” Each Virginia child custody case will be handled differently, depending on the fact of the child custody case.

There are different variations to shared child custody arrangements in Virginia.

Primary Residential Parent In Virginia: The children are in the physical custody of one parent, with the other former partner (non-residential parent ) spends time with the child according to a standard visitation schedule.

Alternating Residential Parenting In Virginia: Both parents share primary residential custody at different times. Some courts have approved plans where the residential parent alternates annually, monthly or weekly.

There are many different ways shared custody and parenting can take form in Virginia. Ideally, parents in Virginia should agree between themselves on an equitable shared parenting plan.

Alternately, each parent can submit his or her own parenting plan to the Virginia courts, allowing the judge to decide. Either way, the Virginia child custody courts must approve the plan.

Co-Habitation and Adultery – Living with the Consequences

In Virginia, adultery is a ground for divorce. It’s also a crime here in the Commonwealth of Virginia – but those criminal statutes are rarely enforced anymore. With no-fault divorce in Virginia, adultery now plays less of an overall role in divorce cases.

As we said, Virginia uses the “best interests of the child” standard in determining Virginia custody issues.

If one parent severs the marriage by moving out and living with another person – this will weigh in on the courts decision in granting custody.

Adultery may not be the stated reason for granting or not granting custody, but may rather play an indirect role. Under the “best interests” standard, the Virginia child custody court will consider your children’s surroundings, which certainly includes their home life. All things being equal, the court will give greater deference to the remaining parent over the new relationship.

When it comes to adultery and divorce – one thing is just about certain: It’s almost never a good thing. It can harm you, and at best will not help you. You are stating loud and clear, your own personal happiness trumps that of a stable family environment. The Virginia child custody court judge will take that into serious consideration when awarding custody.

The “War on Drugs” Enters Family Court

In determining child custody in Virginia, a court may order one or both parents to undergo drug testing – especially if one or the other has a history of taking illegal substances.

Like it or not, if you don’t submit to the drug test, the consequences may be severe. An Ohio court recently held a father in contempt for failing to comply with court ordered testing. His visitation privileges were suspended, but he could resume visitation once he submitted to the drug test order.

Tobacco Use and Child Custody

Especially in Virginia, this used to be a non-issue. But as the Bob Dylan song goes… “The times they are a’changin!”

State after state are coming down hard on tobacco use and users. From higher taxes to outright smoking bans – smoking is slowly taking the same route as driving and drinking.

At least one court has already found a custodial parent’s smoking a relevant factor in changing custody. In that case, the child was diagnosed with asthma – after the divorce. The mother who had custody continued to smoke. The court held the mother’s continued smoking in the child’s presence showed inadequate concern for the welfare of the child – and removed the child from her custody.

Smoking tobacco alone may not be enough to change a custody, but it sure doesn’t help when awarding it in the first place. Face it: Some divorcing couples will use anything they can against each other, including smoking. So if you do smoke, stop smoking around the children. Or even better yet, kick the habit altogether.

Changing the Child’s Last Name

This is considered the ultimate breach by many divorced couples. It signifies a total and absolute severing of past ties – even if visitation rights are preserved.

  • In Virginia, changing a minor child’s last name is governed by the “best interests of the child” standard. These are some of the factors considered:
  • The effect the name change would have on the child
  • The name change effect on the the child’s relationship with each parent
  • The identification of the child as part of a family unit
  • The length of time the child has used a particular name
  • If the child is old enough to understand – the child’s preference is carefully considered.
  • Whether the child’s last name is different from the last name of the child’s residential parent
  • The embarrassment, discomfort or inconvenience that may result when a child bears a last name different from the residential parent’s
  • Parental failure to maintain contact and support of the child
  • Any other factor relevant to the child’s best interest
  • If you’re petitioning to change your child’s name out of spite or revenge – don’t. It’ll probably backfire on you.

Custody Battles Over State Lines – Who Decides?

In Virginia, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) normally govern multi-state custody matters.

Under the UCCJEA, you’ll likely need to file child custody issues in the same state where custody has been addressed before. However, some states allow you to file in your current residence.

The UCCJA was an attempt at a uniform law that would resolve these custody issues. Unfortunately, it left out some important language, and the 50 states each filled in the blanks on their own. The UCCJEA attempted to resolve the problems among the states, and a large number of states have adopted the new law. There are exceptions … so consulting with an experienced “family matters” attorney would be in your best interest.

For more information or to make an appointment with SRIS, P.C. Virginia child custody attorney, please call us.

As SRIS, P.C. our experienced Virginia lawyers are well versed and skilled in Virginia family law court issues – including Virginia child custody matters & child custody laws in Virginia. When you decide to seek advice from us, we guarantee the following:

There’s a lot at stake in a child custody case in Virginia.

We’ll do over level best to make sure a sensible and equitable Virginia child custody agreement is reached by both parents. A highly qualified Virginia attorney is just a toll-free phone call away to discuss your child custody case with you.

Article written by A Sris
Sris Law Group