Child Custody/Visitation Guidance from Fairfax Child Custody Attorney: Afsana Chowdhury
Child custody matters are usually the most litigated and most difficult part of any divorce case. Parents’ top priority is to make sure their children receive the proper guidance and support – both financial and personal. The primary focus of custody and visitation should always be what is in the best interests of the children. Contests often center around which parent is the better parent, which often escalates into finding fault with the other parent. A Fairfax child custody attorney from the Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury will help you focus on your children first and present you to the court as a caring and responsible parent with your children’s best interests in mind.
The parties may try to resolve issues of custody and visitation without litigation, but sometimes when they are unable to agree, these issues are decided by the court or through mediation. Having the right attorney can ensure that you are able to get the best result possible for yourself and your children. Custody and visitation actions are usually between the biological parents, but they can also involve step-parents, grandparents, and guardians who may stand in the place of the parent. In any case, the child’s best interests will always be the primary focus in any custody dispute.
More About Child Custody & Visitation Laws in Virginia
What are the Types of Custody in Virginia?
There are essentially two categories of custody in Virginia: legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody refers to who will make the major decisions for the welfare of the child. These decisions center around religious upbringing, education, and health care. A parent may have sole legal custody, making all decisions for the benefit of the child, or both parents may have joint legal custody where they decide the child’s welfare and upbringing together.
Physical custody refers to the time the child spends with each parent. Typically, the child lives with one parent year-round and stays with the other parent during visitation periods. In this situation, one parent is said to have primary physical custody while the other parent has visitation. Physical custody can also be shared where parents have more equal time with the child. If both parents live in the same school district and the parents get along, then a shared physical custody arrangement may work. The court is required to look at many factors when deciding physical custody of a child.
Visitation, also called parenting time or custodial time, refers to a time-sharing plan. The starting point for most visitation arrangements is that the parent who does not have primary physical custody sees the children on alternate weekends, alternate holidays, and during vacation. The specific schedules will focus on the needs of the children and may also account for parents’ work schedules and the distance required to travel for visitation time. Visitation agreements and orders should have as much detail as possible such as specific dates and times, contingency plans for emergencies, and address whose responsibility it is to pick up and drop off the children.
Where parents get along or where the child has special needs, the child may spend a more balanced amount of time with each parent. Where there is a history of abuse, visitation may be limited or supervised.
Changes to a Custody or Visitation Arrangement
In certain situations, custody and visitation orders may be modified because of changes in the parent’s status or the child’s status. For example, if a parent gets a new job, remarries, has health issues, moves closer or farther away, or has another child, then a change may be warranted. Likewise, a change may be justifiable if a child develops health concerns, learning problems, or social issues. Either parent can request a new custody or visitation arrangement, but they must prove a material change in circumstances has occurred and that the proposed modification is in the best interests of the child. Our Northern Virginia family law office can help you develop a new plan when a change is necessary for the best interests of your child.
Oftentimes, it may be necessary for a parent to move because his or her job requires it. Other times, the move may not be necessary but rather voluntary, such as when a parent develops a relationship with someone new or just wants a change of scenery. The farther the move, the more difficult it becomes for the parties to co-parent the child. Out-of-state relocation raises the question of how the custody order will be enforced in Virginia and in the new state. Our Northern Virginia family law office will advise you regarding your rights and work to prepare a new order to protect the interests of our client and the child.
FAQs Answered by Our Fairfax Child Custody Attorney
Facing a child custody dispute can lead to many questions about how one can best protect their family and maintain custody. Our Fairfax child custody attorney is often asked the following:
How does the court determine custody?
Under Virginia law, the court must determine the best interests of the child based on all information available about the child, the parents, and the living situation. Under Virginia code 20-124.3, related factors include:
- The specific needs of the child based on their age, mental health, and developmental needs;
- The age of the parent as well as their mental and physical health and ability to care for the child; and
- The child’s relationship with each parent, including the parent’s positive involvement in the life of the child, such as participating in daily activities, meeting the child’s intellectual needs, supporting the child’s physical and emotional needs, and fostering the child’s relationship with the other parent
Typically, custody decisions consider more than these few factors. For example, the judge will determine the type of role each parent has played in the child’s life as well as the way they plan to continue to be active in the child’s life. They also consider factors such as how well the parent will support the child’s relationship with the other parent, including ensuring visitation and overall contact. The judge will also address how each parent communicates with the other to resolve questions and disputes about the child.
Occasionally, the judge will also consider the child’s preference for where they wish to live if the child’s intelligence, age, and experience lend to being able to express their preference.
Other factors are also influential, such as any presence of abuse within the family, the financial ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs, and the ability of each parent to keep the child engaged with siblings, peers, and other family members who may have been a part of their life.
Contact our Fairfax child custody attorney for more guidance on what to expect in your case.
How does the court assess the best interests of a child?
The court will gather information from both parents, the child, and others who may be able to contribute such as teachers. Judges often look at the relationship of the child with each parent, not just during courtroom appearances but seek out any information about the relationship over the last few years. Ultimately, the judge wants to understand the child’s life as much as possible to make the best decision.
How can I win custody of my child in a divorce?
Most parents want to do what it takes to win custody of their child. A reasonable desire, however, the process is far from simple or straightforward. Meeting with a Fairfax child custody attorney to discuss your case is typically the best way to gain an understanding of your situation and the options available to you.
When trying to win custody of your child, consider the following:
- Provide accurate information that is as open and transparent as possible.
- Answer questions clearly without exaggeration.
- Show that you are the better parent by providing information about what makes you the “better” parent.
- Be sure you fully understand Virginia’s child custody laws and the information the judge will use to make decisions about child custody.
- Attend all of the child custody hearings and follow all instructions set by the judge, as that can help to show you are willing to do what it takes to support your child.
Most importantly, work with your attorney. Ensure you know what the other parent may bring against you or what opinions the court may have from the information shared by others. Your attorney can also help you to gather insight into your case. This could take the form of illustrating impactful situations, bad relationship history, or communication limitations.
How do I find the best child custody attorney near me?
When choosing a child custody attorney near you, always focus on their experience working in a case like your own. What strategies can they offer to help you win your child custody case? Have they been involved in cases with complicated challenges, such as sexual or emotional abuse?
It is extremely important to trust your lawyer, so always spend time asking questions at the initial meeting. If you do not feel comfortable with the attorney, find another one. Our Fairfax child custody attorney will work closely with you to understand your unique situation and explain your options. We provide fair, honest, and transparent insight into what’s to come.
If you have additional questions about child custody in Virginia, contact us today to ask. We’re here to help you.
Contact A Fairfax Child Custody Attorney When You Need to Protect Your Custody or Visitation Rights
Consult the Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury, PLC, to learn more about Virginia’s guidelines and procedures with regard to child custody and visitation. Our goal is to educate our clients so that their children can be safe and secure and grow into happy, responsible adults. Contact our office at 703-420-4939 for an initial phone consultation or contact us through our online form.