Custody and Visitation Lawyer Bristol, VA
When a divorce or separation involves a child (or children), custody and visitation are often of primary concern. When parents come to The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt looking for a Bristol child custody and visitation attorney, they are often seeking answers regarding what rules and regulations exist in Virginia and what kinds of legal options are available.
An experienced Bristol VA custody and visitation lawyer can be highly beneficial in seeking the desired custody and visitation rights that parents may want to have for themselves and for their children. We know the types of issues you and your family may face. Call us today to schedule a free initial consultation to learn about your parental rights and how we can address your custody needs.
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What Is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?
Legal custody refers to the authority of one or both parents to make decisions for a child, such as what school the child attends, in what religion they may be raised, or decisions relating to medical treatment or care. If two parties can co-parent effectively, a court may award equal legal custody, granting each parent an equivalent say in important decisions.
Conversely, physical custody refers to where a child will physically reside. Parents may also be awarded shared physical custody, where a child lives equally with each parent (such as living with a parent in alternating weeks). However, it is more typical that one parent will have primary custody and the other parent will have visitation rights (sometimes also referred to as parenting time).
Commonly, it is often the case that both parents will have shared legal custody, while only one parent retains primary physical custody. In this situation, both parents will have some degree of legal authority over a child; and typically there will be an agreement on critical matters affecting the child (which school to attend, the religion to be raised, and other major matters). The noncustodial parent is then usually granted visitation and is obligated to pay child support.
At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we understand that every family situation is unique; therefore, you need strategic guidance that fits your individualized needs and goals. Throughout the entire process, we listen to clients’ concerns and seek to meet their personal objectives fully.
What Types of Custody Arrangements Are Typically Awarded in Virginia?
First and foremost, it is critical to understand the different custody options available in Virginia, including:
- Joint Legal Custody. Joint custody allows both parents to retain the legal power to make critical decisions regarding a child (e.g., healthcare, academic choices, religious affiliation, etc.).
- Sole Legal Custody. In high-conflict custody disputes in which parents cannot effectively make decisions, sole custody is typically awarded to a single parent. This type of custody gives only one parent the legal right to make key parenting decisions.
- Shared Physical Custody. Shared physical custody is designed to provide both parents with equal time with a child (e.g., a child may spend one week with the mother, followed by one week with the father). Virginia courts regularly award shared custody, as it often provides the most significant opportunity for children to form meaningful relationships with both parents.
- Visitation. If one parent is granted sole physical custody, the noncustodial parent will typically be granted visitation. Visitation can be nonspecific to accommodate variable work schedules; however, noncustodial parents with consistent work schedules are often awarded alternating weekends with a child.
Child custody matters are among the most contentious and challenging family law cases, and Virginia child custody issues are no exception. If you are facing custody, visitation, and parenting time matters, you will need a strategic custody and visitation plan built specifically for you and your family and a guide to help you navigate the process. At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we have an experienced Virginia child custody lawyer ready to provide you with a path to a child custody outcome that will help you move forward.
Are Mother’s Always Awarded Physical Custody of Children in Virginia?
No. Historically, mothers previously were more likely to be granted sole physical custody of children over fathers; however, as society has progressed, so has family law. In Virginia, both parents have an equal opportunity to obtain sole or shared custody, as courts determine custody and visitation based on what is in a child’s best interest, not the gender of the parents.
At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we fight for the rights of both mothers and fathers and will do everything possible to seek a favorable custody outcome that meets your goals and objectives.
How Is Custody Determined in Virginia?
In amicable separations (in which parents can effectively communicate and agree on most issues), reaching an agreement amongst the parties is typically the least cumbersome and most economical path to settling a custody matter. However, many custody disputes are highly contentious, meaning that courts must step in and determine custody and visitation for the parents. A judge is legally required to make such determinations based on what is in the best interests of a child, carefully weighing the following factors:
- The age, cognitive, and physical health of a child (considering their changing developmental needs);
- The age, cognitive, and physical health of each parent;
- The existing parent-child bonds;
- The needs of an adolescent, including their relationships with siblings and extended family members;
- The caretaking previously contributed by each parent;
- The propensity of each parent to support a healthy relationship with the other parent;
- Each parent’s willingness to foster a relationship with the child;
- The preference of a child (if the court deems an adolescent capable of expressing such preference)
- Any history of physical or sexual abuse within the last ten years; and
- Any other factors that the court may deem necessary and proper to the determination.
Am I Guaranteed Visitation with My Child in Virginia?
Unless there are specific reasons why it is not in the best interest of a child to visit with a parent (such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, etc.), Virginia law requires courts to provide frequent and continuing contact with both parents. If one parent is awarded primary physical custody, the other parent is typically entitled to visitation.
Parents can set a visitation schedule by agreeing on the terms, or a court can do so on their behalf through issuing parenting time orders, which typically include:
- alternating overnight weekend visits,
- alternating holiday and school breaks (including birthdays), and
- pick-up and drop-off instructions (including travel responsibilities).
In cases in which a court believes a child may be in danger of harm during visitation, a judge may order specific restrictions or requirements, including:
- Supervised visitation;
- Abstinence from alcohol or controlled substances for a certain period;
- Completion of outpatient treatment programs; or
- Daytime-only visitation
Call an Experienced Bristol, Virginia Child Custody & Visitation Attorney to Learn How We Can Fight for Your Rights!
Child custody is an incredibly challenging issue, as nothing is more personal than someone’s children, and it is vital to know all available options. At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we understand. We represent clients in seeking their desired custody and visitation objectives, working to show how such objectives are also in the best interest of their children as well as what the law seeks to achieve. If you are in need of an experienced Virginia family law lawyer, we stand ready to tenaciously pursue a favorable custody arrangement that suits you and your family’s needs.
Can Custody, Visitation, or Parenting Time Orders Be Modified?
Yes. It is critical to understand that custody, visitation, and parenting time matters can always be modified upon an agreement between the parents, or if a substantial change occurs with the parents or with respect to the needs of a child. If a substantial change has occurred with either parent or a child, an existing parenting-time order can be amended to suit a child’s best interests. Our Bristol, Virginia family law attorneys are experienced in handling all types of custody and visitation matters, including (but not limited to) those involving:
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Cohabitation Agreements
- Grandparents Rights
- Visitation Orders
- Parenting Time Orders
- Supervised Visitation
- Parenting Time Modifications
Call our office today to schedule a free consultation to learn about your custody and visitation options.
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