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Reston Child Custody Attorneys

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Child custody battles can be one of the most emotionally exhausting parts of your divorce. In most circumstances, both parents want what is in the best interests of the child, but you can disagree about what your child’s best interests are. If you are currently preparing for a custody battle in Reston or are in the midst of one, you need an experienced Virginia custody attorney who will be your partner through this process.

Negotiate a fair and equitable arrangement for child custody, child support, visitation, and parenting rights with the help of the experienced, aggressive, and compassionate family law attorneys at Melone Hatley, P.C. We will be your partner every step of the way.

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Types of Child Custody in Virginia

In Virginia, custody is separated into legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is your right to make important decisions regarding your child relating to their health, education, and general welfare. More often than not, parents will be awarded joint legal custody of the children.

Physical custody is where your child resides the majority of the time. Most of the time, one parent will have primary physical custody. The court can also award shared custody, where you will share time with the other parent more equally.

What Happens if the Parents Are Unable to Agree on Child Custody in Virginia?

If you are unable to agree upfront about your child custody agreement in a collaborative way, negotiation and mediation with a third party may be your best next steps. If your are going through a divorce and those steps do not work, your custody case will go to the circuit court. Once custody is in the hands of the courts, a judge will decide legal and physical custody for your child, and you must abide by that decision.

If you are not going through divorce or have not yet filed for your divorce, then your custody and visitation case will go to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

How Do Virginia Courts Determine Custody?

Before deciding custody, the court will consider the factors under Virginia’s “best interests of the child” standard.

Factors the court will consider include:

  1. The age and physical and mental condition of the child and their changing developmental needs
  2. The age and physical and mental condition of each parent
  3. The existing relationship between each parent and each child, including the level of involvement in the child’s life and their ability to assess and meet the child’s needs
  4. The needs of the child, including relationships and proximity to siblings, peers, and extended family members
  5. The role that each parent has played and will play in the upbringing and care of the child
  6. The willingness 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 each parent’s ability to cooperate in and resolve disputes affecting the child
  8. The reasonable preference of the child, possibly dependent on the child’s age
  9. Any history of violence or abuse
  10. Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper

What is a Guardian Ad Litem and What Do They Do?

In Reston, a guardian ad litem (GAL) is appointed by the court in some custody cases to represent the best interests of the child. The guardian ad litem’s job is to protect the child, usually in situations where the divorce proceedings are so acrimonious that the child’s well-being is at risk or in cases where it is unclear whether either parent is fit to serve as the child’s guardian. Other reasons for appointing a guardian ad litem may exist at the discretion of the court.

Father’s Rights in Reston, Virginia

Virginia is a father’s rights state regarding child custody. As a father, you have equal rights regarding child custody and child support, though unmarried fathers can be an exception. To get rights to custody or visitation, you must prove paternity.

Establishing Father’s Rights in Reston

There are three steps you need to take to establish your rights as a father in Reston as well as the rest of Virginia: establishing paternity, seeking custody, and filing for child support.

  • Establish paternity: Several methods exist for you to establish paternity. The first is a DNA test. The second is if you and the other parent sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity, usually done when the child is born so your name will appear on the birth certificate. Beyond this, you can open a child support case through the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) or file a petition with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
  • Seek custody or visitation: After you have established paternity, you can seek custody or visitation. You have the same rights to custody and visitation that the child’s mother has.
  • File for child support: Whether you can get child support depends on the custody arrangements and income of both parents. Courts award child support to allow the custodial parent to maintain your child’s standard of living and ensure that their basic needs are covered, including shelter, food, clothing, health care, extracurricular and social activities, and the like.

Are Court-Ordered Custody Arrangements Permanent?

Court-ordered custody arrangements are permanent, to a point. These orders can be changed, but only under very specific circumstances. If there has been a material change in circumstances since the court entered the custody arrangement, you can petition the court to modify custody. When you seek to modify custody or visitation, the court is going to use a two part test pursuant to Virginia code 20-108. You must prove there has been a substantial and material change since the entry of the last order and is the change you are requesting in the best interest of the child.

There is no limit to the number of times a judge can modify the arrangement, but the modifications must always be prompted by a substantial and material change in circumstances. Withholding the child from the other custodial parent may be seen as a material change in circumstances at the court’s discretion.

If you are struggling with a child custody issue in Reston, schedule a call with one of our client services coordinators today to begin your case.

Visitation Rights in Reston, Virginia

Visitation defines when each parent will have custodial time with the child. The court will again consider the best interest of the child before deciding. Each visitation schedule can vary drastically and depends on your and the other parent’s work schedule, the distance between the parties, and the child’s school schedule.

If you live near the other parent and the school schedule allows, the court may order a true 50/50 shared custodial schedule. There are a variety of arrangements for a 50/50 custodial plan, from a week-on-week off visitation schedule to a 2-2-3, where the parties alternate times during the week and exchange weekends.

In some cases, other interested parties may petition for, and be awarded visitation. Virginia courts can award visitation to any party with a legitimate interest. Some examples of interested parties include grandparents, stepparents, adult siblings, or other relatives of the child.

Can I Move Out of State With My Children?

Whether you can move out of Virginia depends on the custody arrangements. Moving can change the jurisdiction for custody and divorce proceedings, which can delay and complicate the process. The courts may decide that you and your children moving away is detrimental to their relationship with the other parent, which can negatively impact your custody claim. Before moving out of state, consult a qualified Reston, Virginia custody and divorce lawyer.

Jurisdictional Requirements for Reston Child Custody Cases

Before initiating a custody and visitation case, it is important to understand which court has jurisdiction. Virginia has adopted the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). This statute outlines the proper jurisdiction of child custody cases. Before filing a case in Reston, you must verify there are no prior custody orders and that your child has resided in Virginia for at least six months.

There are situations where Virginia will exercise jurisdiction even when you are unable to meet these requirements. If there is an emergency; such as the child being in danger or being abandoned, you may be able to file an emergency motion. You should consult with a Reston child custody lawyer before initiating a custody case to help you file in the proper place.

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How Can a Reston Child Custody Lawyer Help?

The right Reston child custody and divorce attorney can help you in many ways. They can explain your child custody rights and options. They can negotiate the arrangement with the other parent’s lawyer and represent you if the case goes before a judge. The right child custody attorney can help you with documentation and paperwork, and they can help you avoid costly mistakes. They can be a clear head in situations where you cannot be, and they will be a compassionate ally in your fight for parental rights.

The right family lawyers can provide you the legal representation you need to resolve your child visitation and custody issues. Melone Hatley represents clients across Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County and Reston. We are ready to help with your custody legal issues.

Look After Your Child. We Will Look After Your Case.

If you are in Reston or Fairfax County in Northern Virginia and are facing child custody issues, the family law firm of Melone Hatley is ready to help. We provide legal services with practice areas in all types of family law, and our experienced family law attorneys have years of experience related to divorce law, domestic violence, alimony and spousal support, child support, child custody, estate planning, and many other family law matters.

Our Reston law office offers personalized services and compassionate client relationships. Several of our attorneys have been awarded Super Lawyers recognition, COVA top attorneys, Legal Elite, and top family law attorneys. If you need a family law office serving Reston, contact us today at 703-995-9900 or use our online contact form to schedule an appointment.

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