In order to file for custody in Virginia you have to follow these 10 steps:
Step 1: you need to prove that you meet the requirements for Virginia’s residency laws. Moreover, the child has to have lived in Virginia for at least 6 months before you can file for custody thus you have to file the state and county the child has lived in for the 6 successive months. Moreover, if you file you custody petition in the wrong state, unless the opposing party objects it can still be held there.
Step 2: you have to contact and make an appointment to obtain custody forms at the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in you Virginia County. Moreover, if you are filing for separation then you have to contact the Circuit Court to have the forms available to you.
Step 3: you have to prepare your custody appeal by accentuating factors (such as a child’s health and age, sibling and extended family relationship, Parent`s age, health and support, the child’s preference among many others) that is used to determine what is best for the child by Virginia. Moreover, in case of domestic violence the court will likely deviate from a joint custody plan along with restricting contact with the abusive parent. Sometimes in extreme cases the abusive parents contact is completely restricted and sole custody is awarded to the non-abusive parent.
Step 4: Virginia enforced Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act requires the completion of its document that provides all the needed information such as the addresses of where the child lived, primary caretakers, and any court cases involving the child.
Step 5: you have to make a summons that informs the other party the time limit in replying to your petition.
Step 6: in case you don’t hire a lawyer then you have to sign all the legal documents in the presence of a court official.
Step 7: you then have to file these documents to either the Circuit Court or the J&DR Court. You need to present 3 copies of the documents to the clerk (1 for you, 1 for the other party and 1 for the court)
Step 8: after filing the documents you need to pay all the fees, if you cannot pay for the filing fees, then you can ask for a confirmation request from the court for Form DC-606 that supports application for proceeding without paying for the filing fee.
Step 9: you have to have all the documents served to the other party by either a process server or by a police officer. Moreover, if the other party lives out of Virginia, you can either have them personally delivered or a court clerk can mail the documents
Step 10: finally you have to go to court in order to file a document that confirms the other party has been served.
After these 10 steps, you custody claim will be heard within a few weeks. Moreover, the courts will issue a mandatory 4 hour long parenting classes for all the contested parties in the case. Likewise if you do not attend these classes then your chances of winning custody will quite low. After these classes the court will issue the date for a new hearing, this usually takes several months.
Furthermore, for child representation, the judge will also issue a special lawyer for the child called Guardian Ad Litem. In addition, the judge will also order Social Services to do home studies and also appoint a CASA Worker to do any needed investigations.