Child Custody & Visitation Lawyer Fairfax
Child custody and visitation is often the most hotly litigated aspect of any family law case. It is especially difficult in cases involving two caring and competent parents that just cannot agree regarding who the children should live with or what the visitation schedule should be. The court bases its decision on what is in the best interest of the child by looking at the following factors listed in Virginia Code § 20-124.3:
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 family abuse as that term is defined in § 16.1-228 or sexual abuse. If the court finds such a history, the court may disregard the factors in subdivision 6; and
10. Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.
There are two aspects to child custody, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to decision making power regarding major decisions that affect the child’s life such as education, religion, and medical decisions. Physical custody refers to where the child resides. Physical custody can be joint where the child resides with both parents for an equal amount of time, or one parent can have primary physical custody and the other parent receives visitation. There is no easy answer in child custody disputes. Our lawyers can help you determine and pursue the arrangements that make the most sense in your family’s particular circumstances.
Additionally, child custody and visitation decisions are always modifiable based on a material change in circumstances such as a job change, relocation, incarceration, or other major events in the child or parent’s life. A party must prove that the change is also in the child’s best interests. Modification cases are often very difficult and require an experienced attorney who can advocate for your position to get you what you want.