In the state of Virginia, the court must consider factors that are in the child’s best interest when deciding on custody petitions. These factors include the age, mental and physical health of the child; the physical and mental health of the parent; the relationship between the parent and the child; the parent’s contributions as a caregiver for the child and his willingness to continue providing that role.
Moreover, if deemed old enough, the court can also consider the child’s preference. Both married and divorced parents may petition for custody in the state of Virginia. Married parents can either file for a Petition for Custody in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, or include the issue of custody as they file for divorce in the Circuit Courts, while divorced caretakers can simply file for a Petition for Custody in the J&DR Court. As gender is no longer a relevant presumption under Virginia law, the caretakers must consider their financial contributions and relationship with the child to understand the chances they have of possibly being awarded custody.
Moreover, the state of Virginia allows for other persons of interest to petition for guardianship. These include close family member such as a sibling, grandparent or uncle. However they must provide evidence of circumstances that would make both caretakers unfit to retain custody of the child, which would include mental health issues or domestic violence.
Once all of the relevant paperwork has been completed, an initial hearing is scheduled to take place a few weeks later. If both caretakers are still unable to agree on custody and the initial hearing reaches no result, a trial will take place one to three months after the hearing. During the trial, the judge must consider the aforementioned factors in order to determine what is in the best interest of the child, which is the paramount factor in determining guardianship issues in Virginia.
The judge can either decide to award sole custody to one caretaker or joint care to the both of them. Sole care refers to gaining both the legal and physical care of the minor, while joint care means they are shared between the caretakers. In the case of sole care, the non-custodial caretaker will be entitled to visitation rights with their minor. However, in the case of parents that have a history of domestic abuse or a significant criminal record, the court may either restrict their visitation rights or terminate their parental rights. Visitation rights are restricted by means of supervised visitation, which means a court-ordered third party must be present when the parent and minor meet, and that they must meet in a neutral place. Supervised visitation is not always permanent and a parent might be granted unsupervised visitation by partaking and completing in domestic violence or anger management classes.
Furthermore, in accordance to the laws of Virginia, parents awarded sole care may have their decision to relocate to another artist be revoked by the court if the other parent’s objection to it convinces the court that it will diminish their parenting time and in turn will not be in the child’s best interest.