From the Perspective of a Virginia Custody Lawyer…
At Holcomb Law PC, we understand how confusing and painful issues involving custody of your children can be. In fact, we know that a custody battle can be the most important battle of your life. Many on our staff have been there. We know what you are going through, and we can help.
We often hear clients struggling with questions like these:
- Don’t the Moms always get custody of the kids in Virginia?
- How am I going to be able to support my children by myself?
- How can I afford to pay child support and my own bills? I have to live too!
- Can my ex really take my kids away from me? He or she keeps threatening.
- How can I lose so much time with my children when I’m the one who’s raised them for all these years?
- How can I maintain my relationship with my kids when I have to work even harder now to make ends meet? (Or, as we see so often) while I am deployed?
- Can my ex move to another state and take my children?!
- Why doesn’t my ex get punished for refusing to cooperate when I’m trying to be fair?
- How can I compete with my ex’s efforts to buy our kids’ affection?
- Will my ex’s new spouse try to replace me?
- How can I protect my children from the bad influences at my ex’s home?
- How can I keep my children safe from my abusive ex?
- How can I convince my children that my ex is lying about me?
- Why does my ex keep getting away with refusing to support our children?
- How is it fair that my ex cheated on me and now I am losing half of my time with my children and having to pay child support?
We hear these questions and others like them all the time. As I mentioned above, we know personally how hard these battles are. But as a child custody attorney in Newport News VA that serve all of Hampton Roads I have good news: (1) The first thing you need is information to help relieve some stress, and (2) there is hope. You have come to the right site. We will take very good care of you and your children.
The best place to start when facing a battle like this is to get information to take the mystery out of what seems to be a very complex process. We have written some resources and provided some information below to give you some understanding of the law. Please read on.
Best Interest of the Child—not Best Interest of the Parents.
Virginia courts use the “best interest of the child” standard to determine custody and visitation of minor children. This means that Judges must consider several factors, listed in the Code of Virginia, to determine how various parenting plans will affect the children, and try to write Orders that help the children’s lives change as little as possible, or be disrupted as little as possible, during and after a divorce or separation of their parents.
Judges also work hard to ensure that the children will have meaningful relationships with both parents, as numerous studies over generations of scholarship agree that this is almost always the best arrangement for any child. Generally, the court will encourage parents to share the responsibility of raising their children, and almost always order “joint legal custody” to the parents and then decide who is best situated for primary physical custody (meaning only where the child or children will primarily live).
Types of Custody in Virginia.
In Virginia, there are two types of custody: Legal Custody and Physical Custody. Legal custody involves authority to be involved in major decisions in a child’s life: among those decisions might be educational, religious, and medical decisions, along with geography, where the child will reside. As mentioned above, in the vast majority of cases, a Judge will award the parents joint legal custody, giving both parents a say in what goes on in their children’s lives. Only in cases of abuse or neglect, or perhaps if a parent is incarcerated for a long period of time, will a Court grant one parent “sole legal custody.” The point is to keep both parents involved in the children’s lives.
Physical Custody is merely where the child primarily lives. Along with that of course, comes certain normal responsibilities: the child’s schedule for example, and day-to-day minor decision-making and normal care. The “non-custodial” parent will almost always have a visitation schedule. We call this the “parenting plan,” rather than “visitation,” since the child has two full parents, not one parent and one “visitor.”
Child Support is for the Children.
Usually, the non-custodial parent is responsible to support the children financially to assist the other parent house, feed, and care for the children. Your custody lawyer can help demystify support. This child support amount is set by a chart in the Code of Virginia, according to the sum of both parents gross incomes, and then adjusted, taking into account among other factors, the cost of work-related child care if necessary, the cost of providing health insurance for the children, and an allowance for other children one parent must also support. Child support is a fairly straight-forward calculation in Virginia; hence, it is rarely litigated except in cases of non-payment.
What Does a Judge Look For When Deciding Custody?
The factors a Judge must consider when evaluating what is in the best interest of your children include the age, physical, and mental health of the child and each parent, the relationship between the child and each parent, and each parent’s role in the child’s life. This includes whether or not each parent is a positive influence in the child’s life and has the ability and desire to meet the child’s changing emotional, intellectual, and physical needs. The Court also looks at the child’s relationship with siblings and other more extended family members, and the child’s preference if the child is old enough to express one, usually around age 14.
It is very important to note that Judges also want to ensure that each parent supports the child’s continuing contact and involvement with the other parent. This is actually enforced. A parent who denies or interferes with the other parent’s visitation with the child or who does not cooperate with the other parent can lose physical or legal custody! That parent might not receive as much visitation as they would like as a non-custodial parent. Likewise, if there is a history of abuse in the family, a judge might require that parent to undergo treatment and provide the Court with an evaluation and/or might require the abusive parent to see the children only under supervised conditions.
What is the Court Trying To Do?
Without exception, Judges in Virginia encourage parents to work together to create a custody and visitation schedule that is in the best interests of their children—what is best for the family. Judges will often order a “mediation orientation” to explain mediation in an effort to assist parents in this endeavor. Parents can discuss options with the help of a mediator and may then submit the plan to their custody lawyer and ultimately to the Judge. (See our Mediation Practice Area page on this for more information.) The Judge will almost always adopt the parents’ mediated schedule and make it an order if they agree on everything and the schedule is good for the child. Judges can also help if there is only one or two issues upon which the parents cannot agree. Judges see these types of cases almost every day and can offer suggestions or make decisions based on that experience in the community.
Contact us at Holcomb Law to schedule your “No Hassle Legal Strategy Meeting,” (no sales pitch) at which our custody lawyer will answer ALL your questions and show you your options.
(757) 525-2424 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our custody lawyer will take good care of you.