Custody Lawyer Lebanon, VA
When a divorce or separation involves a child (or children), custody and visitation determinations can profoundly affect a family for the rest of their lives. At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we represent the residents of Lebanon and the surrounding communities, tenaciously fighting for the rights of parents in seeking to ensure that their future is protected.
If you need an experienced Lebanon custody lawyer, look to our firm. Our mission is to provide Virginia families with the support, guidance, and advocacy needed for the complex financial and emotional ramifications associated with family law.
Call our office today to schedule a free initial consultation to learn about your legal rights and how we can address your custody needs. We offer affordable rates in custody matters and accept credit card payments.
Are There Different Types of Custody in Virginia?
Life changes drastically when you become a parent. If you are like most individuals, providing a stable environment for your child is a top priority, but divorce and custody issues can make this a challenge. At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we share your concerns and will work diligently in seeking to achieve your desired custody arrangements.
What is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?
For many clients, a primary concern is where a child will reside most of the time. For parents who are separating or divorcing, it is critical to understand the differences between legal and physical custody, as each has crucial distinctions.
Legal custody only involves a parent’s ability to make essential life decisions for a child, such as what school he or she will attend or whether medical treatment should be administered. Alternatively, physical custody determines where a child will reside.
In some cases, children may live primarily with one parent, making the other parent a “noncustodial parent.” In such situations, the noncustodial parent is generally granted visitation and obligated to pay child support. In other cases, parents are given split physical custody, meaning a child will reside with both parents an equal amount of time. It is then up to the court (or an agreement between the parents) as to which parent may pay for expenses associated with the children (such as school tuition or braces), and how such expense will be split.
If you are in need of an experienced child custody attorney, we can help. We know that every family situation is different, meaning that a one-size-fits-all approach to custody is not feasible. We will work with you to understand the unique facets of your situation and construct a pragmatic plan to seek the most favorable custody outcome possible.
Are Mothers Always Awarded Primary Physical Custody in Virginia?
As society has progressed and more women have moved into the workforce, so have custody determinations. In the past, mothers were usually awarded primary physical custody of children. Now, however, Virginia courts often favor shared physical custody, as it promotes the development of a meaningful relationship with both parents.
What Factors are Considered by Virginia Courts in Making Custody Decisions?
First and foremost, Virginia courts are required to make custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of a child. Consequently, depending on the unique circumstances, a court may award a variety of different types of custody, including:
- Joint Legal Custody. Joint custody allows both parties to retain the legal power to make crucial decisions regarding a child.
- Sole Legal Custody. In situations in which parents have difficulty arriving at a consensus, sole custody may be awarded to a single parent to avoid future stalemates and disagreements. This means only one parent will have a say in critical decisions (e.g., what school a child attends, religious affiliation, etc.).
- Shared Physical Custody. Shared physical custody allows both parents to spend nearly equal time with a child, often on a week-on and week-off schedule.
- Visitation. If a child resides primarily with one parent (meaning one parent has sole physical custody), the other parent is typically entitled to fair visitation.
At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we understand the strong bonds parents have with children. Therefore, when we represent a client, we always work to build a compelling case designed to achieve a client’s goals and to help deepen their relationship with their children.
How Is Custody Determined in Virginia?
While parents on amicable terms can solidify custody determinations through a mutual parenting plan, this is not possible in every case, as emotions often run high. In contentious cases, a judge is legally required to make a custody determination based on what is in the best interests of a child, considering:
- The age, cognitive, and physical health of a child (taking into account their changing developmental needs);
- The age, cognitive, and physical health of each parent;
- The existing parent-child relationships;
- The needs of an adolescent (including their relationships with siblings);
- The caretaking previously contributed by each parent;
- The likelihood of each parent to support a healthy relationship with the other parent;
- Each parent’s involvement with a child;
- A child’s preference (if they are of an age to make such preference known);
- Any history of physical or sexual abuse; and
- Any other factors that the court may deem necessary and proper to the determination.
Can I Avoid Litigation in a Custody Case by Developing a Parenting Plan?
While Virginia courts can step in and make parenting decisions on behalf of parties, it is generally advantageous for parties to work through their differences and agree on parenting issues whenever possible. Creating an agreeable parenting plan can help avoid costly litigation by negotiating workable agreements that seek to accommodate all parties’ needs.
Additionally, parents will know what type of parenting plan will work best for them based upon their specific circumstances, and they will also be the ones who ultimately will benefit from an agreed-upon parenting plan. Parents may have certain activities that they routinely engage in, such as participating in a softball league, working out at the gym on a daily basis, or playing golf with friends on a Saturday morning.
A court may or may not take into account these activities when finalizing a parenting plan in the absence of an agreement between the parents. Instead, the court’s primary objective is to create a plan that best benefits any children involved, and any hobbies and non-work activities will be given low priority. As a result, parents should consider that the more they can agree to a plan customized around their needs and the less that is left up to a court to decide, the better off they likely will be.
What Aspects are Commonly Addressed in a Parenting Plan?
The following are a few items that are commonly addressed in a parenting plan:
- Overnight Visitation Schedules
- Holiday Schedules (including spring and summer breaks)
- Transportation (including pick-up and drop-off locations and times)
- How To Handle Unexpected Scheduling Changes
- Decision-Making Authority (for both day-to-day activities and critical decisions)
- Child Support
- Other Expenses (including daycare, health insurance, school costs, and other expenses)
Get the Help You Need – Schedule A Free Consultation with an Experienced Lebanon Child Custody!
Nothing is more personal than a parent’s relationship with a child; thus, child custody can be an incredibly challenging issue. At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, our Lebanon child custody lawyers stand ready to pursue a favorable custody outcome that suits your individual needs.