Having sole custody of a child means being responsible for providing the child with a home and for making decisions regarding their education, health-care and well-being.
For parents that are already married and are seeking a divorce, custody may be one of the issues discussed as they file for divorce in the Circuit Courts. They may also file a Petition for Custody in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court.
For divorced parents, filing a Petition for Custody in the J&DR court is enough.
Before filing for custody in Virginia, the parent must be sure that they meet the residency laws in Virginia, which state that child must have lived in the state for at least six months.
When preparing for a custody petition, the parent must emphasis the factors that the court usually considers when determining custody, these are the age, mental and physical health of the child and the parent; the relationship between the parent and the child; the parent’s history as caregiver; and the preference of the child. All of these factors are crucial because the court views them to determine what is in the child’s best interest.
Following this, in accordance with the laws of Virginia, the parent must prepare an affidavit providing information on the child’s previous addresses, the caretaker in each address and any court cases the child was involved in. This information is required by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, currently enforced in the state of Virginia. Next, a summons, which is a document informing the other parent of their deadline to answer the custody petition, is sent. Finally, copies of these documents must be presented to the J&DR court and to the other party.
An initial hearing in Virginia takes place within a few weeks from the petition being finalized. Prior to this, the court orders both parties to attend a four-hour parenting education class and failing to attend them harms the parent’s chance of being awarded custody. During the hearing, the court may order a psychological evaluation of the parties or to hire a ‘Guardian Ad Litem’, who is an attorney that will represent the child. The hearing may end with both parents reaching an agreement on custody, however, if this isn’t the case, a trial will take place in one to three months after the hearing. A temporary custody order may be put in place by the court in order to cover the period before the trial takes place.
During the trial, the judge will review the witnesses’ testimonies along with the aforementioned factors in order to determine what decision will be in the child’s best interest.
If a parent succeeds in being awarded sole custody for the child, their spouse might still retain visitation rights and will not suffer a complete termination of their parental rights. The former may happen in extreme cases where abuse was undertaken by said parents, however, formerly abusive parents might still retain visitation rights, as long as it is supervised by a third party appointed by the court in a neutral ground that is neither of the spouses’ homes.
If you need a Virginia Child Custody lawyer to help you with your Child Custody case in Virginia, call us at 888-437-7747. Our Virginia Child Custody attorneys can help you.