After a divorce or the dissolution of a relationship, there are decisions to make regarding custody and visitation of minor children. Who will be the primary caregiver of the child? Will we share both legal and physical custody? What will the visitation rights be?
The courts will have their own questions as well when making decisions regarding child custody and visitation. Take a look these FAQs and their answers to better understand the process.
In the absence of a court order, both parents have equal rights to the physical custody of their minor children and to make decisions on behalf of their children. The parties could agree on how to handle custody and visitation prior to the court hearing and have their agreement entered as a consent order. Alternatively, either party could file a motion for pendente lite relief and ask the court to enter a temporary order for custody and visitation to remain in effect until the court makes a final determination.
Judges make child custody and visitation decisions based on the child’s best interests. Judges consider a variety of factors they believe to be important to determining the child’s best interests when making a decision. One important factor to the court in establishing most custody arrangements is which parent will be the most likely to see to it that the other parent remains a strong part of the child’s life.
Below you’ll find an extensive but not exhaustive list of potential factors. Keep in mind that the court may take into consideration any factors they believe to be relevant to the case and in the best interests of the child.
There are many different types of court ordered custody to be aware of:
A child under the age of 18, who has not been legally emancipated, cannot choose which parent to live with in Virginia. That decision rests with the child’s parents or, if a custody order has been entered, then with the court. If a child is old enough to make a rational decision, the court may take the reasons for their preference into consideration. This scenario is typically the case with older, more mature children.
The short answer is yes but rarely. The biological parents of the child bear the presumptive right to custody. Grandparents, other relatives, and other third parties may be considered if both parents are unfit.
No. In fact, judges and courts are not permitted to give preference to one gender over the other when making a custody or visitation decision. The best interests of the child always come first. Despite the abolishment of legal preference to granting maternal custody, you may still find judges who are biased and prefer to award females custody.
The simple answer is no, but it is best for final decisions of the parties to be reduced to a court order for clarity and compliance. If you reach an agreement before beginning the proceedings, it will typically make for a smoother and easier process and custody and visitation can be determined through a formal signed agreement. This agreement is then entered into a final order. Parties can retain counsel to negotiate or review agreements and can also use other services, such as mediation. While custody matters are personal and in the best case decided outside a courtroom, legal services are useful in helping the parties reach a final agreement which can be incorporated into an order.
No. Other remedies exist to get a non-paying party to comply with paying child support. Withholding visitation is not one of these remedies.
No. The Virginia courts retain jurisdiction to review and modify all orders of custody and visitation.
Melone Hatley is a general practice law firm and serves Virginia Beach and 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 rights, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 in Northern Virginia or 757.296.0580 in Virginia Beach, or visit our website: www.MeloneLawPC.com.