Divorces can be difficult and messy. Deciding to end your marriage is not easy. This process is only made more difficult when there are children thrown into the mix. Not only must couples figure out how to divide their assets and adjust to life apart, but when the couple has children together there needs to be a child custody agreement in place. Below is the information you need to know about child custody in Virginia.
If couples are able to come to an agreement, then there is really no further discussion regarding custody. The agreement is included in the divorce decree and the wishes of the couple are usually honored. However, not every couple can come to an amicable decision. In these instances, the courts will examine a variety of factors in determining what is in the best interest of the child.
Common Considerations of the Court
When making child custody decisions, the court looks at what is the best interest of the child. The following are common factors considered by the court. This is not an exhaustive list of factors, but common ones that the court considers.
- Age of the child
- Mental condition of the child and the child’s developmental needs
- Age of each parent
- Physical condition of each parent
- The relationship each parent currently has with the child
- The ability for the parent to “accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child”
- The needs of the child – including the relationship the child has with siblings, extended family members, or peers
- The role each parent has played in the upbringing of the child and the role each parent might play in the child’s future
- Willingness for each parent to maintain a close relationship with the child
- The preference of the child
- Prior instances of family abuse
- Prior instances of sexual abuse
- The willingness of each parent to keep in contact with the other parent to cooperate in disputes
In the above list, most factors deal with the relationships the child has and the ability of parents to care for the child. One other factor that might stand out is the child’s preference. Virginia courts recognize that children are one of the best indicators of their own needs. However, a child’s preferences are not always what is in the child’s best interest. Courts will look at the age and maturity of a child in weighing his or her preference. Courts also recognize that younger children might feel more stressed testifying in court or choosing between their parents. Therefore, while child’s preference is considered in custody proceedings, it is not the deciding factor.
The family law attorneys at Greg Baker Attorneys at Law, PLLC are here to help you through a divorce. We understand that divorce is difficult and that negotiating a child custody agreement can be emotionally draining. We want to help you and your soon to be ex-spouse come to an agreement that is in the best interest of the child, while also considering your feelings. Contact us today for a free consultation.