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Family and domestic disputes are usually difficult situations that are highly charged with emotion, especially when children are involved. Legal matters affecting your children can be terrifying for both you and your children who might not understand why their parents are fighting and where it leaves them.
When it comes to child custody, if you find yourself in the middle of a dispute, you need to have a Richmond, Virginia lawyer by your side. The attorneys at Melone Hatley, P.C. have you and your children’s best interests in mind and will take our passion and experience to the courts to fight for you. Call our legal team at (804) 893-5067 so that we can discuss our legal services and what we can do to get you and your children the best outcome possible.
Sometimes, the parents can agree on a good custody and visitation schedule. However, it is not uncommon for these situations to dissolve quickly; child custody, child visitation, and child support disputes can become extremely unpleasant for all parties involved. This is where the attorneys at Melone Hatley can help.
Virginia family law codes are very specific as they relate to child custody, visitation, and related family law matters. If two parents are unable to come to an agreement, the matter will be heard in court, which will decide in the best interests of the child.
If your case goes to court, the judge is free to make any ruling that she or he believes is in the best interests of the child pursuant to Virginia Code 20-124.3, or the “best interest of the child” statute. This can include the parties sharing custody, one party having primary custody, or one party even having sole custody. This is a list of the factors that the court must weigh when making a decision.
Visitation rights are decided much the same way as custody, with the court weighing the factors found in Virginia Code 20-124.3. Here, the court will determine the time frame and location where the non-custodial parent will get to see the children. This judge’s decision will take into account each parent’s work schedule, the child’s school schedule, the distance between the parents, and any abuse or mistreatment that may have occurred. In some situations, the court can even order that one parent has supervised visitation.
Virginia sets the amount of child support following the guidelines in code 20-108.2. This outlines that the court must take into account the incomes of both parties, other children, spousal support, and can even include the number of days that each parent has the children. As these computations are based on several factors, it is important that the court has the correct numbers.
In any custody dispute, each parent (or guardian) must demonstrate to the court reasons why they believe the child(ren) is/are best served to live with them. To do this, it is essential to work with an experienced Richmond custody lawyer who will listen to you and fight for you in court.
In custody disputes, it is not uncommon for one parent to make claims that the other parent is abusive or unfit; these claims can have a serious negative impact on your case. Our Richmond custody attorneys will make sure to present your case to the court, accurately, and demonstrate your ability, willingness, and fitness to be the primary custodian.
In some cases, the court may award shared, or equal 50/50 custody. In these situations, both parents are deemed fit and proper, the parents generally live close in proximity, and have a history of being able to work together for the best interest of the child.
For parents who choose not to use an attorney for these matters, it should be noted that the parent with legal representation generally gets the best outcome.
In Virginia, there are two types of custody that will be decided in every case; physical custody and legal custody. A court has board discretion as to how to divide these rights between the parents.
Physical custody is simply who the child will primarily live with for most of the year. The parent granted physical custody generally spends the most time with the child and oversees the daily activities and care for the child. In situations where one parent has primary physical custody, the other parent will have a set visitation schedule. However, the court can grant that one parent has sole physical custody. In these situations, the other parent may get no visitation at all.
Legal Custody is the right to make decisions regarding the health and welfare of the child. Examples of these decisions are where the child goes to school, non-emergency medical care for the child, day-to-day activities of the child, religion, etc. The court can award joint legal custody, sole legal custody, and tie-breaker legal custody.
In Virginia, child custody hearings are handled by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. The exact court depends on which county in which you live; in Richmond, the case will be handled by this court. If your child custody dispute arises as part of your divorce, you will have the option to file in either the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (JDR Court) or file for your divorce in the Circuit Court. In disputes over custody and visitation, it is not uncommon for the court to appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). You can read more about GALs here: https://www.melonelawpc.com/gaurdian-ad-litem/.
Parents who are able to work together can often choose to establish a parenting plan that addresses both physical custody and legal custody. In these instances, it is important to remember that the court still has the final say on all issues regarding legal custody and physical custody.
Factors the court can consider include a child’s personal relationships, the emotional fitness of each parent, and, depending on their age, the child’s own preferences for where they want to live. Once settled, the custody agreement remains in place unless changed by a judge at a later time if circumstances change and a court order needs modification.
Many people assume the mother always receives custody, but in the Commonwealth, this is not the presumption or preference. Virginia courts are required by law to base custody arrangement decisions solely on what is in the best interest of the children under Virginia Code § 20-124.3. A Richmond custody judge will always consider the following factors:
This is a short list, but judges also consider any other factors that might come into play to either enhance or harm a child’s everyday lifestyle (e.g. if the parent is living with a significant other, their character is likely to be taken into consideration).
The bottom line is the judge will look for the child to experience as little disruption as possible to their usual routines.
The length of time a child custody battle lasts depends upon a variety of factors, along with any legal issues involved. This includes, but is not limited to, the agreement of the parents and any evidence presented. The timeline of a child custody dispute in Richmond could range from two to four weeks (at a minimum, as this is when the first hearing will occur) to many months. How long child custody battles take heavily depends on the circumstances of the case and the level of dispute involved.
If you are involved in a disagreement regarding child custody, you want an experienced family law attorney on your side. The caring and compassionate Richmond child custody attorneys at the Melone Hatley P.C. law firm understand how difficult and emotionally draining child custody cases can be. Our team will stand with you throughout the process and work hard to do what is best for your children while striving to protect your parental rights.
For more information, call the Melone Hatley law office at (804) 893-5067 or complete our online contact form to receive an initial consultation with the Melone Hatley P.C. team about your case. We represent our clients in all family law practice areas. An honest and sincere client relationship is very important to us, and we promise to provide sound legal advice and offer the best services to address your legal needs. A free consultation is just a click or call away.
If you are facing a contested custody or visitation case, contact our office today to schedule a free initial consultation with a Child Custody Lawyer.