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Child Custody

Experienced Child Support Attorneys Help Parents in Leesburg and Charlottesville, VA

Fighting for your parental rights and your child’s best interests

Custody cases can be extremely hard on children. During your divorce and afterwards, it’s important to remember your children need both parents and to work towards a reasonable parenting plan that upholds your parental rights while affirming your children’s best interests. The child custody attorneys at Joseph & Mische, P.C. have more than 70 years of combined experience representing mothers and fathers seeking custody or modifying custody. We make it our top priority to minimize the impact of litigation on your children, and we strive to reach results that work smoothly for all parties involved. In rare cases where contact with one of the parents would be harmful to the child, we litigate aggressively to secure your child’s safety. On the other hand, if the other parent has made false allegations of unfitness against you, we fight determinedly to protect your reputation, your parental rights, and your relationship with your child.

Types of child custody arrangements in Virginia

The best interests of a child require the participation and cooperation of both parents. Agreement on child custody terms may be reached through negotiation, or the court may order the terms. Types of custody include:

  • Physical custody — Physical custody determines where the child physically lives, who they’re living with, where they’re sleeping, etc.
  • Legal custody — Legal custody determines the authority to make decisions regarding the child’s health, education and safety.
  • Sole custody — A court may award physical and/or legal custody to one parent. The parent who has sole physical custody provides a year-round residence for the child, while the other parent has visitation rights. A parent who has sole legal custody is empowered to make all important decisions impacting the child’s welfare and generally receives child support payments from the noncustodial parent.
  • Joint custody — Also known as shared custody, this is an arrangement where parents each provide a part-time residence for the child (joint physical custody) and/or cooperate in making decisions (joint legal custody).
  • Split custody — In this rare arrangement, each parent has sole physical custody of at least one of their children.

In Virginia, the family law court awards legal and physical custody based on the best interests of the child. However, parents can take the decision out of the judge’s hands by negotiating a child custody settlement as part of an uncontested divorce.

What is visitation?

When the court awards sole physical custody to one parent, the other parent is awarded visitation rights, unless the court feels contact with that parent would be contrary to the child’s best interests. The extent of a parent’s visitation rights depends on how the court judges that parent’s fitness. If a parent simply cannot perform the duties of a primary caregiver, but is nonetheless a loving parent, the court can be generous with visitation, since frequent, meaningful contact with the parent would be in the child’s best interest. However, if facts come to light that call into question a parent’s fitness, the court can:

  • Require that visitation be supervised
  • Forbid visits to the parent’s home
  • Forbid overnight visits
  • Impose other restrictions necessary to safeguard the child

In extreme cases, a court can even terminate a parent’s rights entirely. A parent who is accused of unfitness has the right to due process. Judges understand that one party to a divorce often makes unfounded accusations of abuse to get an upper hand in a custody battle. Nevertheless, the court may order temporary restrictions as it conducts an investigation into the allegations.

Determining what’s in the best interests of the children

Virginia family courts determine custody based on the best interests of the child, taking into consideration Virginia Code §20-124.3, including the following factors:

  • Age, physical and mental condition of the child
  • Age, physical and mental condition of each parent
  • The relationship existing between each parent and each child
  • The ability of each parent to meet the emotional and physical needs of the child
  • The needs of the child, including other important relationships with siblings, friends and relatives
  • The role that each parent has played and will play in the child’s life
  • The likelihood of a parent supporting the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child
  • The ability of each parent to cooperate with the other parent in resolving disputes regarding matters that affect the child
  • The child’s wishes, if old enough to express such preferences
  • Any history of family abuse or sexual abuse
  • Any other factor the court feels is necessary to make a decision about custody

The focus of a child custody case must be kept on the child. We understand Virginia child custody laws and can guide you through the legal process so you can achieve your custody goals.

Assisting you with any child custody matter in Virginia

When you need help with child custody matters, call the Charlottesville office of Joseph & Mische, P.C. at 434.260.8749 or the Leesburg office at 703.777.7740, or contact the firm online to schedule a confidential appointment.

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Office Locations
  • Charlottesville Office
    408 E. Market Street
    Suite 208 B
    Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
    Phone: 434.984.1118
    Fax: 434.984.1917
  • Leesburg Office
    120 Edward Ferry Road NE
    Second Floor
    Leesburg, Virginia 20176
    Phone: 703.297.8567
    Fax: 434.984.1917