One of the most emotional and contentious areas of dispute in a divorce can be deciding custody of the children. Ideally, you and your spouse will come to some agreement on this. If not, the judge will make a final decision as to who is awarded custody of the children. Even if you reach an agreement, the judge must approve your arrangement. Here, we discuss what factors the judge will consider in determining custody.
How the Best Interest of the Child Is Used in Deciding Custody in Virginia
Like other states, Virginia uses the best interest of the child to determine who gets physical and legal custody of children in a divorce or other custody dispute. The judge will consider how a parenting plan affects the children and will order a plan that disrupt the children’s lives as little as possible both during and after the divorce. In addition, the judge will try to ensure that the children maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents. Here are the factors that a judge is required to consider under Virginia law when deciding custody:
- Age and physical and mental condition of the children while considering their changing developmental needs
- Age and physical and mental condition of both parents
- Relationship between each parent and each child and each parent’s ability to meet the emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of the child
- Each child’s needs, including other important relationships, such as with siblings, friends, and extended family members
- Role that each parent has played in the past and will in the future in raising the children
- Likelihood that each parent will support the children’s relationship with the other parent, which could include considering if either parent has denied visitation to the other parent without justification in the past
- Willingness and ability of each parent to maintain a close relationship with the children and the ability to cooperate and resolve disputes regarding them
- Reasonable preference of the child if he is old enough to make and express a decision
- Any history of family abuse or sexual abuse
- Any other factors that the judge decides are necessary to his decision
Retaining an experienced family law attorney before making any decisions about divorce or custody of your children can be extremely beneficial. He can advise you of your legal rights and help you get a better sense of how these factors would affect custody of your children. Schedule your free consultation with a member of our family law team today. Call our office and we will be happy to schedule an appointment.