Top Child Custody Attorneys Providing Guidance and Protecting Your Rights During Difficult Times. Serving Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
Questions regarding child custody? Contact our office today or schedule a call with one of our Client Services Coordinators.
When spouses divorce, the issue of “who gets the kids” is often the most difficult and stressful for both parents and children. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the law does not favor either parent. Instead it considers the best interests of the child, and looks at the relationship between each parent and child. While others may seek custody (grandparents, aunts, uncles) there is always a presumption in favor the natural parents.
If the parents are not married, Virginia considers any offspring the child of his or her mother. If the father wishes to assert rights to the child, paternity must be established or admitted in court. There are several ways to establish paternity, and a father should consult a family law attorney for guidance. Once paternity is established, neither party will be given a preference by the court solely on gender.
Custody is separated into two parts, legal custody and physical custody. A parent with legal custody has the right to make plans and decisions for the child’s education, medical care, religious upbringing, discipline, and other matters concerning the child’s welfare. A parent with physical custody has the child living with them z majority of the time and can make decisions about the child’s everyday needs.
Before making any determination of custody, the court will consider the factors under Virginia Code Section 20-124.3, or the “best interests of the child” standard.
Visitation defines when each parent will have custodial time with the child. The court will again consider the factors of code section 20-124.3 before making a determination. Each visitation schedule can vary drastically and will also depend on each parent’s work schedule, the distance between the parties, and the child’s school schedule.
If the parties live in close proximity to one another and the school schedule allows, the court may order a true 50/50 shared custodial schedule. This can range from a week-on-week off visitation schedule, or something more like a 2-2-3, where the parties alternate time during the week and exchange weekends.
Visitation rights are not limited solely to the other parent. Additionally, grandparents, step-parents, and other close relatives may be awarded visitation rights. While there are no reported cases in Virginia of brothers or sisters being given visitation, a strong argument could be made that it would be in the best interest of the child.
The court has the power to deny visitation. Normally the court will only stop visitation for a specific time period or until a certain task is performed. For example, the court has previously denied visitation until the parent entered and completed a substance abuse program. The court may deny visitation if it’s proven that the non-custodial parent is dangerous or has put the child at risk.
Before initiating a custody and visitation case, it’s important to understand which court has jurisdiction. Virginia has adopted the UCCJEA, or Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act. This statute sets out where jurisdiction of the matter is proper. Before filing a case in Virginia, the petitioning party has to verify there are no prior custody orders and the child has resided in Virginia for at least 6 months.
There can be situations where Virginia will exercise jurisdiction even when these requirements have not been met, such as in emergency motions. You should consult with a child custody lawyer before initiating a custody case to ensure you file in the proper place.
Melone Hatley is a general practice law firm based in Reston and serves the Northern Virginia area. Our practice areas include Family Law, Divorce and Special Needs Children, Traffic Ticket Defense, DUI/DWI Defense, and Trust and Estate Law. Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service. Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients.
We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives. For more information about custody and visitation, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 or reach us through our contact page.
If you are facing a contested custody or visitation case, contact our office today to schedule a call with one of our Client Services Coordinators.
What a breath of fresh air they were. After dealing with a terrible firm that took a divorce and turned it into a year long $30,000 nightmare. Emily Vaughn turned my case around in as little as a week. All parties were talking again and it was finished a month or two after that. Eric Schell and Emily Vaughn were hands down the best to work with. I would recommend them to anyone! I am and will continue to use them in other matters in the future. They truly impressed! Great job you two!!
I contacted the Charlotte office with some initial inquiries and found myself in contact with Haley Acuff. I was impressed with her obvious compassion and objectiveness. Her insightful questions helped me to clarify my thought process, while also inspiring confidence that I have indeed found the caring and capable legal representation I was hopeful to find.
“Worked with both James and Rebecca. Both were very professional and worked hard to make sure I was taken care of with my child support cases. I fully recommend them.”
“I had started this process of going through child custody at Norfolk JDR with Mr. Hatley about 2 1/2 years ago. He had done SO much from fighting false domestic violence charges to helping me gain custody of my son. I was skeptical when I first came in years ago because I got passed off from another lawyer to Mr. Hatley.
I was very blunt and had told him that I needed everything he had and that is exactly what he did. He was there for every phone call, every emergency, every email, every court appearance on time and dressed extremely well. He knew his stuff and he had saved me a lot of money and time staying out of court for false charges. If you ever get the unlucky chance of having to go to court you wont be unlucky if you have Hatley on your side. Thank you guys for everything you have done.”
“This is by far the #1 Law Firm! I had the pleasure of hiring this firm at the Reston, Virginia location and it surpassed all of my expectations. Melone Hatley P.C has exceptional attributes including:
1) Customer Service- The staff is ALWAYS pleasant/warming
2) Communication- Attorney’s are very easy to contact and the response time is rapid.
3) Cost- The retainer and hourly attorney fee’s are very cost efficient
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“They were so friendly and attentive to the matter I brought to them. I wasn’t just treated like “another case”. It felt like they actually cared about me and the outcome of the matter I brought to them. The positive results they got me obviously were the best part!”
“I hired MH to handle a divorce. Charles and Angela have been nothing but professional, empathetic, and timely. There isn’t another firm out there that will provide this level of care. Highly recommended.”
“Ms. Alexandra at Melone Hatley is great with her communication skills. Very honest, helpful, and keeps to her word. Flawless system that this law firm has set up. Impressed to say the least.”