Everyone suffers during a divorce, but it is the children who will be the most profoundly affected. When there are fundamental differences between the parents that chronically cause fights, tension and unresolved conflict, however, divorce is often the best solution. And where there is domestic violence, divorce may inevitably be the best outcome.
Depending on how the divorce is handled and if the parents are able to maintain good communication with the children, especially those old enough to understand what is happening, the children can adjust to a new normal after divorce.
How child custody is determined in Virginia
Custody and visitation arrangements in Virginia are determined by state law and administered by court order, usually through the Juvenile and Domestic Relations (J&DR) Court and sometimes in Circuit Court.
Like most states, Virginia adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act in 1979, which creates more uniformity in child custody cases but also prevents non-custodial parents from illegally taking children across state lines. Virginia law recognizes three types of custody:
- Joint legal custody, in which both parents share decisions about the child’s educational needs, religious formation or medical concerns
- Joint physical custody, in which both parents share responsibilities for the living arrangements of the child, usually trading alternating weeks or weekends
- Sole custody, in which there is one custodial parent with possible visitation rights to the non-custodial spouse
What is in the best interest of the child
The Code of Virginia sets out the factors that the judge will consider in ruling on custody and visitation arrangements, with the focus on what is in the best interest of the child. Some of these factors include:
- the child’s developmental needs as well as needs relational to siblings, peers or extended family
- age and mental condition of the parents and the child
- the quality of the relationship the child has with each parent
- the prior and future role in the care and upbringing of the child
- each parent’s willingness to encourage bonding of the child with the other parent
- preference of the child if the court considers them to be of age
- history of domestic abuse
For residents of Virginia and metro Washington D.C., creating a new life for your family can start with having compassionate and experienced family law attorneys who will discuss workable solutions that allow you to protect your children and your rights as a parent.