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How is Child Custody Determined?

Whether you are going through a divorce involving children, have a related post-divorce concern, or need to resolve a concern outside of marriage and divorce, child custody is a primary matter that requires careful legal attention. Better understanding how child custody is determined in Virginia can provide you with a better understanding of your own child custody case, and working closely with an experienced Virginia child custody attorney is one of the most important steps you can take to help protect your parental rights throughout the legal process. 

Child Custody in Virginia

In Virginia, child custody is divided into both legal and physical custody. Legal custody determines who will be making the major decisions that guide your children’s lives, including the following:

  • Decisions about your children’s education 
  • Decisions about your children’s health care
  • Decisions about your children’s religious upbringing
  • Decisions about your children’s extracurriculars and travel

Physical custody determines when the children are with one parent and when they are with the other. If one parent becomes the primary custodial parent, the children will live with him or her the majority of the time while the other parent has a visitation schedule. Otherwise, both parents will divide their time with the children more evenly. 

Best Interest Factors

When Virginia courts make determinations regarding child custody, they always put the best interests of the involved children first. Toward this end, they turn to best interest factors such as the following:

  • The age and overall physical and mental health of each child (with an eye toward their evolving developmental needs)
  • The age and overall physical and mental health of each parent
  • Each parent’s relative willingness to maintain an ongoing and close relationship with each child
  • Each parent’s relative willingness to collaborate with the other regarding making important decisions on behalf of the children
  • Each child’s reasonable preference in the matter (if deemed appropriate by the court)
  • Each parent’s preference in the matter
  • The level of bond each parent has formed with each child
  • Each child’s needs, including any special needs
  • The role that each parent has played in raising the children to date and the likelihood that each parent will continue to do so
  • Each parent’s ability and inclination to support each child’s ongoing relationship with the other parent
  • Any history of child abuse, child neglect, or domestic abuse in the family
  • Any other concerns that are deemed relevant by the court in the unique case at hand

The determination of child custody arrangements is an exceptionally important matter that Virginia courts take very seriously. 

Seek the Legal Guidance of an Experienced Virginia Child Custody Attorney

The focused Virginia child custody attorneys at Mahoney Richmond Thurston, PLLC, recognize exactly how important your child custody concerns are, and we are committed to skillfully advocating for your parental rights – in pursuit of your case’s most advantageous outcome. Your rights as a parent are paramount, so please do not wait to reach out and contact us for more information today