The seven cities that make up Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads are of the largest in the state, are no stranger to custody cases. Divorce is a stressful, heartbreaking time in your life, and now you must suffer even worse pain and heartache as you broach the subject of child custody, visitation, and property division. These topics often cause divorces to be contested and are the most difficult to settle.
You care deeply about your children. You want them to be safe and have the best possible custody arrangement for their needs. The top-rated family law attorneys at the law firm of Melone Hatley, P.C. are ready to help you deal with the emotional and stressful process of your Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach child custody case.
This guide will teach you how to identify and avoid the ten most common mistakes people make in a divorce.
The child custody attorneys at the law offices of Melone Hatley have many years of experience providing expert legal advice to clients all across Virginia to guide them through challenging divorce cases.
Whether you need help fighting for child custody and visitation or understanding your parental rights, we can help you get the best outcome in your legal matters relating to family law issues. Our family law firm offers experienced, caring, and aggressive legal representation in family law matters.
We offer a large law firm expertise but in an individualized boutique setting. We are not a faceless corporate firm that will treat you like a number. We have a one-on-one approach and deeply value our client relationships.
Child custody cases can get highly charged with intense emotions. Everyone thinks they are doing what is in the best interests of the child, but it can be difficult to see past your anger and sadness.
The child custody lawyers at our firm are here to provide a caring ear and legal services that help you get the best possible custody arrangements for your family. We are top-rated Virginia attorneys continuously recognized as Super Lawyers. To schedule an appointment, contact the law offices of Melone Hatley at 800-479-8124 or use our contact form today.
Child custody law in Virginia is very specific in that the courts always consider the best interests of the child over everything else. To determine this, family law courts will examine the relationship between each parent and the child.
They will consider issues such as domestic relations between the parent and children, as well as which parent may be the best able to provide for the mental and physical health of the child, financially prepare for their needs, and offer the most nurturing environment.
While other parties, such as grandparents, may try to seek custody, the courts prefer to place the child with the natural parents whenever possible. When parents are unmarried, Virginia favors the mother and considers the child her legal offspring.
For a father to assert parental rights, he must provide a signed birth certificate or establish other proof of paternity. In such cases, it is always best to have a family law attorney representing you. Gender no longer plays a role in preference for custody following the establishment of paternity.
There are two types of custody in Virginia: physical custody and legal custody. Parents may share custody, or the courts may grant one parent sole custody. Having sole custody in one area does not guarantee custody in both. Sometimes, for example, parents share joint legal custody, while one parent may have sole physical custody and the other has visitation rights.
Besides the two main categories of custody (legal and physical), there are many divisions of custody that may be court-ordered.
Courts usually only order temporary custody during divorce proceedings. It is normally granted in emergency situations where the child’s health and wellness are seen to be at risk.
Joint legal custody is what the courts usually prefer, if possible. It means that both parents share all of the important decisions surrounding their child. The parents work as a team to determine where their child goes to school, who their health care provider is, what extracurricular activities they have, and other aspects of their emotional and physical health and wellness.
If the courts do not feel that one of the parents is capable of making responsible decisions for their child, they may award legal custody to just one member of the couple. This is referred to as having sole legal custody of the child.
Sole physical custody means the child lives with one of their parents full-time. The noncustodial parent may have visitation rights and have to pay child support to the custodial parent. However, the child will spend almost all their time at the primary residence, where they are considered to live full-time.
Whether legal or physical, sole custody is usually ordered when the child’s life is at stake. Situations can include one of the parents having substance abuse problems, committing domestic violence, or having been convicted of a felony.
When parents share physical custody, it is not always equal. The parent with whom the child lives the majority of the time is considered to have primary physical custody.
Split custody arrangements are very rare and involve situations where a couple has multiple children. In these cases, one parent gets primary custody of one child, and the other parent gets primary custody of the other child. In these cases, courts will consider the expressed preference of the children, their ages, and their maturity to make responsible decisions.
Shared custody arrangements see parents share parenting time more equally with the children. It may not always be a 50/50 split. It could be 60/40 or some other division.
A judge looks at many factors to determine the custody of the child, but it all comes down to the best interests of the child. These factors can include the following.
The courts will evaluate the child’s physical condition, health, and wellness. Are the parents capable of maintaining their child’s health, providing adequate nutrition, and making sure the child gets the health care and medication they need?
Courts will observe the child’s relationship with their parents. If the child has an acrimonious relationship with one parent, the other parent may be favored unless other factors are involved.
A child who disdains a parent, for example, for placing boundaries on them while the other lets them run free will not be considered as heavily. A child will most often look more positively on the parent who takes them to the park over the one who makes them go to school, but that does not necessarily mean the fun park parent is the better choice for custody.
In addition, the courts will examine the child’s relationships with their friends, siblings, and other family members. Relationships go toward assessing the child’s emotional health and well-being.
Courts will also consider the needs of the child. This includes where the child will go to school, what extracurricular activities they enjoy, and their basic clothing, food, and shelter needs. The parent best able to provide for these needs will be more heavily considered in most cases.
In addition, the courts will examine the role of the parents in raising the child, including everything from financial provisions for the child’s well-being to emotional upbringing. The courts will also consider the anticipated role that each parent may play in rearing the child in the future.
A guardian ad litem (GAL) is a lawyer the courts appoint to represent the best interests of a child. This is necessary when the courts need to determine whether either or both parents are a risk to the child’s physical, mental, or emotional welfare. A GAL is appointed if there are allegations of abuse or neglect, there is an entrustment agreement, or one parent seeks to terminate parental rights.
A guardian ad litem may also be appointed if a parent wants to surrender custody, the child seeks emancipation from their parents, or the courts need to work out foster care status or plans. Finally, a GAL may come into the picture when a parent requires mental health commitment proceedings as well as any other reason that the courts deem necessary for the child’s best interests.
The GAL is only appointed and serves during the custody proceedings. They have the responsibility of providing independent recommendations regarding the child’s interests. This is different from recommending what the child wants.
Visitation is the term for defining the amount of time each parent will physically spend with the child. The court will consider several factors before determining physical custody and visitation. Every decision is unique to the individual case, and courts look at variables such as the parent’s work schedules, how far away they live from one another, and the school schedule of the child.
Sometimes, if all things are equal, the court may order true 50/50 shared custody, which can be a situation where the child spends a week with each parent, the parents alternate time every few days and switch off weekends, or some other equal time. Often, however, visitation is not completely equal because it is difficult to maintain the child’s best interests in these situations. Custody can range from a 60/40 split to one parent having 100% custody and the other only supervised visitation, in the most extreme circumstances.
Visitation is not restricted to parents. Grandparents, stepparents, and other close relatives may also be permitted visitation with a child. The courts can, in addition, deny visitation, though this normally only occurs if a certain task needs to be performed, such as payment of child support or completion of a substance abuse program. They may also deny visitation if it can be proved that the noncustodial parent has caused the child personal injury or otherwise presents a risk to the child.
When you are seeking visitation, always keep the best interests of your child in mind. Consider whether your child will enjoy the visitation and wants visitation, whether it will encourage your bond, and whether it is the best or only way your ex-spouse will grant you access. These are some of the things the courts will consider as well.
If you are a parent and you think that your visitation rights are at risk, an attorney at law with practice areas in family law can help you work through the legal issues at hand. Contact Melone Hatley, P.C. at 800.479.8124 or use our online contact form to set up an appointment with our legal team.
When determining child support, the courts will look at several pieces of information before rendering a decision.
Child support is not meant to burden the noncustodial parent, so their income will be considered.
One important thing to remember is that child support and spousal support are two different things and will be determined separately. However, in some cases, one can affect the other.
Who provides the child’s medical and health insurance? Can the parents share the cost of providing such care?
It is also important to examine other expenses to maintain the child’s standard of living, health, and wellness. These include the costs of extracurricular activities, food, housing, school supplies, clothing, and all the other expenses that come with raising a child.
Virginia abides by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or UCCJEA. You must verify before petitioning that no prior custody orders exist and that the child has lived in Virginia for a minimum of six months.
Custody, visitation, and child support issues in Virginia are all handled in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. If you do not already have an order handed down by another court, you can file a petition for custody or visitation at the court service unit in the juvenile court building. If you have a court order, you can file to amend it at the clerk’s office.
Family law matters can be extremely complicated, whether you are discussing estate planning, military divorce, spousal support, division of property, or child custody issues. The right Virginia Beach attorney can help you smooth the process, keep a clear head, and consider what is best for your child.
Divorce cases are difficult and stressful all around, and part of a family law attorney’s job is to make it progress as quickly and smoothly as possible without undue stress on your family or your children.
Melone Hatley, P.C. has decades of experience helping clients all over Virginia Beach with challenging child custody and divorce cases. If you need legal advice about your rights under family law, we are ready to help you. An attorney with our firm will spend time getting to personally know you and your case, providing you essential legal advice that safeguards the rights of you and your children. Call us at 800-479-8124 or get in touch online for an appointment to begin your case.
"*" indicates required fields