Custody

Virginia Child Custody Attorneys


Top Child Custody Attorneys Providing Guidance and Protecting Your Rights During Difficult Times. Serving Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Why Choose Melone Hatley, P.C.?
  • Experienced, aggressive and caring child custody lawyers
  • Highly Rated By Clients
  • Big Law Firm experience in a boutique setting
  • Client focused approach with one-on-one attention
  • Cost-effective approach
  • Payment plans available

Questions regarding child custody? Contact our office today or schedule a call with one of our Client Services Coordinators.


Table of Contents:

Custody

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.

Types of Custody

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.

  • Temporary custody refers to who the child is living with on a temporary basis. It is only in effect pending a full hearing.
  • Joint Legal Custody: Joint Legal Custody is when both parents have an equal right to make important decisions involving the child, including their health, education, and welfare.
  • Sole Legal Custody: This type of custody is where only one parent has the right to make decisions affecting the child’s health, education and welfare.
  • Primary Physical Custody: refers to where the child resides a majority of the time.
  • Split Custody: Split custody arrangements are rare, and they involve one parent having custody of one child and the other parent having primary custody of another child. Some considerations for these types of arrangements are the age and maturity of the child and their expressed preference.
  • Shared Custody: Shared custody refers to an arrangement where the parties share time with the children more equally.

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.

Factors the court will consider include:

  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 (i) family abuse as that term is defined in § 16.1-228; (ii) sexual abuse; (iii) child abuse; or (iv) an act of violence, force, or threat as defined in § 19.2-152.7:1 that occurred no earlier than 10 years prior to the date a petition is filed. If the court finds such a history or act, the court may disregard the factors in subdivision 6; and
  10. Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.

Visitation

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.

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Jurisdictional Requirements

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.

About Melone Hatley 

Melone Hatley is a general practice law firm based in Reston and serves the Northern Virginia area.  Our practice areas include Family LawDivorce 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.

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  • E.C.

    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!!

    E.C.
  • J.G.

    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.

    J.G.
  • R.S.

    “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.”

  • M.A.

    “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.”

  • D.S.

    “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

    4) Client Case- They work diligently on my case”

  • N.N.

    “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!”

  • S.H.

    “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.”

  • A.D.

    “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.”

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