A Knowledgeable and Skilled Virginia Child Custody Attorney
Disputes about child custody and visitation may arise as part of a divorce. They may also be come up when unmarried parents who are not living together or who decide to live apart cannot agree on a suitable custody and visitation arrangement for their children.
Our attorneys recognize that custody and visitation arrangements must clearly define the rights of each of the parents, must be in the best interest of the child and must be enforceable by the courts. Agreements that fail to meet these minimum criteria will usually end up back in court as the squabbling between the parents continues.
We have found that taking the time to try to resolve custody-related disputes through a well-negotiated and carefully written custody agreement can avoid conflicts by clearly defining the rights and obligations of the parents. When parents know what is expected of them with regard to raising their child, there tends to be greater compliance. When disputes do arise, enforcing a clearly written agreement is easier to do than one that is vague in defining the role each parent will be in the life of the child.
Recognizing and protecting your rights as a parent
Virginia recognizes physical and legal custody as distinct and separate rights. Physical custody entails the rights of a parent to make decisions about the care of a child, including:
- Health care
- General welfare
On the other hand, physical custody has to do with having physical control over a child without having the right to make legally binding decisions. Courts in Virginia are authorized to award joint physical and joint legal custody. They may also, if the facts of a particular case warrant it, award sole legal or sole physical custody. Sole physical and legal custody may also be awarded.
Courts prefer and encourage custody plans that are negotiated and agreed upon by the parents as opposed to a plan for custody and visitation that is imposed upon the parties by a judge hearing evidence at a trial or a hearing. The primary factor courts take into consideration in awarding custody and visitation is the best interest of the child. Other factors that Virginia courts normally take into consideration may include:
- The age of each of the parents
- The age of the child
- The physical and mental condition of each parent
- The physical and mental condition of the child
- The relationship established with the child by each parent
- The needs of the child
- Any history of abuse
- The ability of each parent to cooperate with the other in making child care decisions
- The role each parent has previously played in raising the child
Judges are free to take other factors into consideration in making child custody orders. All of which is done to do what is best for the child including keeping each parent as active as possible in the life of the child. Visitation is the method courts use to accomplish this particularly in cases in which one parent is granted sole physical custody.
Courts in Virginia encourage parents to create a visitation and custody plan through negotiations rather than through litigation. The premise for this is a simple one: Parents working together to achieve a mutually acceptable custody plan are more likely to cooperate to make the plan a success.
Rights of grandparents in custody and visitation disputes
Virginia law allows grandparents, as persons with a legitimate interest, to file a petition for custody. However, winning a child custody battle against the natural parents is an uphill battle that begins with having to overcome a presumption that favors the custodial rights and child raising authority of parents.
Visitation rights of grandparents are slightly different in Virginia than seeking custody. When both parents object to grandparents visiting with a child, the courts tend to favor the right of parents to determine what is in the best interest of their child.
Things are different when the objection to grandparent visitation comes from just one parent. Instead of having to prove harm to the child’s health or general welfare and that visitation in the child’s best interest as grandparents must do when both parents object, the only issue in a case with one parent objecting is the best interest of the child.
The attorneys at the Smith Law Firm, P.L.C. have developed the skills and legal know-how to protect and enforce fathers’ rights, grandparents’ rights and the rights of parents in child custody and visitation cases. As skilled negotiators and courtroom experienced litigation attorneys, we can handle even the most complex child custody and visitation case from initial negotiations through trial if an amicable resolution cannot be achieved.