Determining who should get custody of children is often one of the most contentious aspects of any divorce process and could lead to conflict even long after a divorce is finalized. Whether you want to seek custody or visitation while also pursuing a divorce, or you want to modify an existing custody or visitation order, assistance from experienced legal counsel may be essential to getting the outcome you desire.
Fortunately, a Richmond child custody lawyer is ready and available to help you fight for a favorable custody arrangement. While a court will ultimately have the final say over custody and visitation rights, working with a seasoned family attorney can go a long way towards enforcing your legal rights and negotiating for a solution that serves the best interests of you and your child.
Under state law, there are two types of custody a parent or guardian may be granted over a child if they are not married to the child’s other parent or guardian. What most people think of when they hear the term “custody”— a child living with one party or the other—is known as physical custody. Legal custody, on the other hand, grants a parent the right to make decisions on a child’s behalf regarding important matters like schooling, healthcare, and religious upbringing.
Courts in Richmond generally operate under the assumption that both parents having joint legal custody is in a child’s best interests, unless available evidence expressly proves otherwise. However, it is less common for a court to assign joint physical custody. Typically, this is due to concerns over one parent’s ability to care for a child, or because the two parents have conflicting work schedules or are separated by an unreasonable geographic distance.
As an alternative, one parent may be given sole physical custody of a child, while the other parent is granted visitation rights—also known as “parenting time”— with that child, sometimes with certain conditions attached. A local attorney can explain in further detail what child custody options may be available and help an individual parent pursue a desirable arrangement.
Parents in Richmond have the option of establishing parenting plans together that address who will have physical custody, who will be responsible for making certain decisions on the child’s behalf, and what visitation or joint custody schedule they will follow. Regardless of a plan, the court always has the final say on whether a custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests. Determining “best interests” can incorporate factors like the child’s personal relationships, the physical and/or emotional fitness of both parents, and the child’s own preferences.
Once a family court judge approves a custody arrangement, it remains in place unless a judge modifies it at a later date. If necessary, a children’s custody lawyer in the area can help a parent petition for a change. Under Virginia Code §20-108, these modifications are based on a “material change of circumstances” that has occurred since the original order was put in place.
If you are a parent, maintaining your right to see and care for your child may be your biggest priority during divorce proceedings. Fortunately, state law does not make any presumptions about which parent might be better fit to retain custody of a child. However, this typically means you will have to effectively petition for an arrangement that best suits your desires and your child’s needs.
In both respects, help from a Richmond child custody lawyer can be crucial to achieving your goals for a custody order. Reach out today to schedule a consultation and start discussing the possibilities in your situation.