Serving Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, and Loudoun

When a marriage or relationship ends, child custody is often one of the most difficult issues to resolve. If you are a parent, your child’s well-being is your priority, and parenting when parents live separately can be a challenge. You may worry about how your relationship with your child will change if they are not living with you every day, or about how you will be able to make decisions with your co-parent regarding your child’s needs.

The child custody lawyers of Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield understand those concerns. Not only have we handled hundreds of custody matters during our years of legal practice, but we are also parents. We understand what is at stake in every child custody case, and we are committed to taking every measure necessary to protect your child, and your relationship with them.

What Child Custody Means in Virginia

There are two types of child custody in Virginia: physical custody and legal custody. As the name suggests, physical custody refers to where a child physically resides. Legal custody refers to the power to make important life decisions for a child, such as those regarding education, religious instruction, and medical care.

Both legal and physical custody may be joint (shared between parents) or sole (with one parent). Virginia does not have a presumption in favor of joint or sole custody, but joint legal and physical custody are commonly awarded.

Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that each parent will have exactly equal time with the child. If one parent is granted sole physical custody of a child, the other parent will have regular visitation, also called “parenting time.” If a court believes that a child’s well-being could be at risk from spending time with a parent unsupervised, the court may order supervised visitation in extreme situations.

Determining Child Custody in Virginia

Parents know their child better than anyone else. For that reason, Virginia courts allow parents to come up with their own custody and parenting time arrangements so long as those arrangements do not appear to be contrary to the child’s best interests. If parents need help working out the details of child custody and parenting time, they are encouraged to get that help through mediation, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Best Interest Factors in Virginia

If parents are unable to agree upon custody and parenting time even with the help of their attorneys, or a mediator, the court will need to make the decision. That decision will be based upon the “best interest of the child” standard, which requires consideration of the following factors by the court:

  • The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child's changing developmental needs;
  • The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
  • The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child's life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of the child;
  • The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child, including but not limited to siblings, peers, and extended family members;
  • The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;
  • The propensity of each parent to actively support the child's contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;
  • The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age, and experience to express such a preference;
  • Any history of family abuse; sexual abuse; child abuse;  or an act of violence, force, or threat that occurred no earlier than 10 years prior to the date a petition is filed.
  • Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.

Mothers Rights vs. Fathers Rights

Virginia law does not favor either mothers or fathers in custody determinations. The court’s focus is upon serving the child’s best interests, so a parent who desires custody of their child should work with an experienced Virginia child custody attorney. An experienced family law attorney understands what evidence a court needs to render a determination favorable to their client, and how to present that evidence to the court.

Child custody cases are understandably emotionally charged, and they are rarely straightforward. However, some cases are more complicated than others, involving allegations of child abuse or domestic violence, substance abuse, or concerns about one parent removing the child from the state or country. In cases involving these, or other complicating factors, it is even more critical to have skilled child custody lawyers on your side.

Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield: Virginia Custody Lawyers Here to Help

At Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield, we understand the impact a custody dispute can have on your family, and we work to achieve your goals with a minimum of stress for you and your children. Our skilled child custody lawyers take a strategic, analytical approach to resolving custody disputes. We will negotiate a favorable custody arrangement for you if possible. If negotiation cannot achieve your goals, we will litigate on your behalf. We are seasoned, effective litigators with a strong track record in court.

We invite you to contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation regarding your Virginia custody matter.

Attorneys:  Emily Neuhausen