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Child Custody Lawyer in Virginia Beach

Deering Hedrick has years of experience in Virginia custody laws and can help you get a fair outcome no matter what kind of custody issues you may be facing.

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When you’re dealing with divorce, you already have a lot on your plate. Trying to sort out the best situation for custody on top of it all could prove to be a challenge. Not only that, but there are no two families that are the same, which means that there is never a single solution that will work for everyone.

If you’re involved in a custody dispute, you need to make sure that you work with an attorney that is focused on taking care of your family’s needs. The right legal representation will ensure that parents’ rights are protected while the best interests of the children are exercised in determining the custody that suits your family’s unique needs.

There are several different types of custody arrangements that can be set up, either outside of the court system or by the courts directly, depending on the preference of the parents involved or the circumstances surrounding the custody issues. Of course, custody agreements can change for more than a divorce, so the right lawyer should be able to address those needs, as well.

How do I file for custody in Virginia Beach?

Virginia custody laws require that you first meet the residency laws before you can file a legal case, both for custody and for other legal issues. Once you confirm residency, you will need to make an appointment with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in your county to get a copy of the custody forms.

Once you have the forms, you will draw up your petition that emphasizes the factors that make you the best choice for custody based on what the state of Virginia uses to determine custody arrangements. This petition should include any information about the child and the parents that could impact the outcome, as well as what your suggested resolution is (sole custody, joint custody, etc.).

Then, you’ll complete an affidavit that provides information about the child’s address history, who they live with and who is taking care of them, and whether there are other court cases with which they are involved.

Of course, the very first thing that you should do is hire a reputable child custody lawyer.

This will ensure that you file correctly and get all the paperwork in order. It will also give you a better chance of getting a fair outcome for everyone involved. And, the affidavit is only the beginning of the paperwork; you’ll need to make sure that you complete all required documents in multiples so that there are copies for everyone.

Once the custody petition has been prepared, you will need to pay the filing fees and then have the papers severed on the other parent. Once they have been served, you can file a document with the court to advise them to go ahead with the hearing.

How is child custody determined in Virginia?

There are several factors at play here. In amicable cases, parents may be able to work out a child custody arrangement that suits them without any legal involvement. It may still be a good idea to get this arrangement in writing, however, to avoid future complications. In the event that the parents cannot sort it out on their own or they want some assistance from custody lawyers and the court system, that is an option.

If the courts are left to decide what happens in regard to the custody of the child or children, they will weigh several factors in making their decision. This will include the mental, emotional, physical, and even financial wellness of both parents, as well as how they parent the child. If there is any history of legal trouble or medical issues, those will be reviewed, as well.

Ultimately, the judge is always going to do what is in the best interest of the child. With older children, this might even include allowing them to have an opinion about where they live. Some judges may even decide to appoint the child or children with an attorney, or Guardian Ad Litem, of their own, which will result in the need for a social services evaluation of the home as part of the custody process.

What is the most common child custody arrangement?

There is no single arrangement that works for everyone, as we mentioned earlier. The parents, if possible, should work together to determine what is in the best interests of the child or children involved. In the event that this cannot happen, the courts will intervene as needed. The types of custody available in the state of Virginia are similar to what is used in other states:

  • Sole Custody: This is when the custody of the child is awarded to one party for the sake of parenting decisions. That means the noncustodial parent will be required to follow the wishes of the custodial parent in all regards.
  • Joint Custody: This is an arrangement that requires co-parenting, allowing both parties to maintain the same level of responsibility in custody, including for things like medical care, school, and religious affiliations.
  • Shared Custody: In a shared custody arrangement, parents will have equal time with their child, although one may be designated as the “primary” parent for the sake of school or medical care. This is an excellent choice for those who are living in separate households.
  • Visitation: When parents have shared custody or are otherwise prohibited from other custody arrangements, they may be limited to visitations with their children. These can range from private visits to visits that require supervision, the latter of which usually result from parents that have a history of abuse or substance abuse, for example.

What constitutes an “unfit parent” in Virginia?

The law in Virginia is not exactly black and white when it comes to defining what it is exactly that makes a parent “unfit.” There are several circumstances and situations that could occur that result in someone being deemed an unfit parent. The most common reasons custody is denied or revoked for this cause include:

  • Abandonment or desertion of the child
  • Neglect
  • Child abuse (mental, physical, and/or emotional)
  • Failure to maintain interest and responsibility in the child’s welfare
  • Depravity
  • Substance abuse disorders or other conditions and circumstances to lead to these conditions

Virginia law has specific requirements for what does and doesn’t fit the bill under this designation, but there is also room for the courts to decide whether a specific situation has actually taken place in a way that constitutes being unfit or if it is a special or extenuating circumstance. The courts will consider the welfare of the child, the child’s best interests, and parental conduct that may impact parenting ability.

Does a judge have to decide the custody case?

While some spouses do find themselves in front of a judge pleading their case to be given custody of the children, it doesn’t have to come to that. In many situations, there are ways to resolve custody issues before it requires a court hearing. Mediation and arbitration can help couples hammer out the details and try to reach an agreement.

In some cases, spouses might already have an idea of a custody arrangement that works for them and just pursue it on their own. However, you’ll want to remember here that this means you will need to continue to agree with your ex, or there could be issues that arise. Also, if those issues do arise and you have no legal custody arrangement in place, that could come back to haunt you.

It’s often best to allow judges to determine custody, even if they are only signing off on an arrangement that was decided upon outside of the courtroom. This will ensure that everyone gets a fair outcome and that emotions aren’t making decisions that could impact the rest of your child’s life.

What should I do now?

If you have more questions, or if you’re just ready to hire a lawyer for your child custody case, Deering Hedrick is here to help. We have years of experience in Virginia custody laws and can help you get a fair outcome no matter what kind of custody issues you may be facing.

When you have the right legal support on your side, you’ll be able to get through the custody process with less stress and uncertainty. Schedule your consultation or get more information by giving us a call today at 757-383-6848!

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Since 2011

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Divorce & Separation​
Child Support
Child Custody​
Domestic Violence​
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