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How does a Virginia court determine child custody?

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2023 | Child Custody

Virginia parents who are new to the custody process often have many questions about how a court decides on issues involving child custody.

When you start a custody action, if you and your co-parent cannot agree on custody, you will be scheduled for a custody trial.

There are benefits to resolving your custody case instead of going to trial. Even if you do not get exactly what you want, you still had some control over the decision. With a trial, you are leaving everything up to a judge.

However, custody trials do happen, and it is important to know what factors the court uses when making custody decisions.

Best interest of the child standard

Most states, including Virginia, weigh several factors to decide what type of custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child.

Some the factors include:

  • Age, physical and mental conditions of the parents and child
  • The role each parent plays in the child’s life
  • Each parent’s positive involvement with the child

Each child’s specific needs are also addressed. For example, if a child has medical needs that require attending many medical appointments, a court may examine which parent has a more flexible schedule to bring the child to appointments.

Parental alienation

One important factor that should not be overlooked is the support and encouragement between the parents when it comes to maintaining a relationship with the child.

Sometimes, parents try to keep the child with them and forbid them to see or contact the other parent. They can assume this will help them in custody court because they can show that the child does not have a meaningful relationship with the other parent.

However, the court might punish a parent by reducing their custody time if there is evidence that the parent is intentionally alienating the child from the other parent.

Can the child choose?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no age at which the child can choose which parent they want to live with.

The child’s preference is a custody factor; however, it is taken into consideration with all the other factors. Therefore, the decision is never truly up to the child.

A custody attorney can advise you on how these factors apply to your situation and give you a realistic idea of what to expect in custody court.