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 interest of the children. Contests often center around which parent is the better parent, which often escalates into finding fault with the other parent. 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.
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 by mediation. Having the right attorney can ensure that you are able to get the best result possible for yourself and your children. Sometimes a court psychologist or psychiatrist will be asked to make a formal review. Other times, our firm will hire a private psychologist to evaluate the children and parents. 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 interest will always be the primary focus in any custody dispute.
Key Considerations in Custody and Visitation Cases
There are essentially two categories of custody in Virginia: legal custody and physical custody. These categories determine which parent the children stay with and who gets to make major decisions affecting the children.
Legal custody refers to who will make the major decisions for the child. These decisions include the child’s religious upbringing, which school the child attends, who monitors their homework, how the child will be disciplined, and how health issues of the child will be handled. A parent may have sole legal custody or both parents may have joint legal custody.
Physical custody determines which parent the child will physically stay with. 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 gets visitation. Physical custody can also be shared. Many factors are considered when deciding whether a shared custody arrangement is feasible. If both parents live in the same school district and the parents get along, then a shared physical custody arrangement may work.
Visitation: The starting point for most visitation arrangements is that the parent who does not have physical custody sees the children on alternate weekends, alternate holidays and during vacation. Visitation stipulations 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
Custody and visitation orders can be changed because of changes in the parent’s status or the child’s status. If a parent gets a new job, remarries, has health issues, moves closer or farther away or has another child, then a change can be requested. If a child develops health concerns, learning problems, or social issues, then a change may be warranted. Either parent can request a change but they must prove that a change in the stipulation or order is needed.
Often times, 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 will the custody order be enforced in Virginia and in the new state. Our Northern Virginia family law office will work to prepare a new stipulation or order to protect the interests of our client and the child.
Contact Our Law Firm When You Need to Protect Your Custody or Visitation Rights.
Consult the law office of Afsana Chowdhury to learn more about Virginia’s guidelines and procedures with regard to child custody and visitation. Our goal is educate our clients so that their children can be safe, secure and can grow into happy responsible adults. Contact our office at 703-271-6519 for an initial phone consultation or contact us through our online form.