Custody and Visitation Lawyer Abingdon, VA
Custody & Visitation Law Firm Abingdon Virginia
Child custody is one of the most emotionally challenging issues that our clients face. However, having a reasonable and regular schedule with a child can help ease this emotional strain and provide predictability during this transitional time. There is no single child custody plan that fits every situation. Thus, at The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we understand that it is critical to focus on meeting each family’s individual needs.
As experienced Abingdon custody lawyers and visitation attorneys with years of experience, we tenaciously fight for fair custody and visitation, and work to protect our clients’ rights and relationships with their children. Call us today to schedule a free initial consultation to learn how we can seek on your behalf a creative and pragmatic child custody plan tailored to suit your unique needs.
We offer affordable hourly billing rates in custody and visitation matters and accept credit card payments.
What Types of Child Custody are Awarded in Virginia?
We understand how stressful it can be to face the prospect of losing time with a child. With this in mind, we provide honest, straightforward counsel and representation concerning the custody and visitation process, and how Virginia law may impact your custody objectives. We are also there to answer your questions, and to help you through difficult child custody matters.
What Types of Custody Arrangements Exist in Virginia?
The following are the standard custody arrangements awarded in Virginia:
- Joint Custody. Joint custody allows both parents to retain the legal right to make important decisions regarding a child (i.e., healthcare, academic choices, religious affiliation, etc.). However, this type of custody generally requires both parents to co-parent effectively, meaning they must be able to reach a consensus regarding such decisions. Joint custody pertains only to critical parenting decisions, meaning each party may not have equal physical contact with their child(ren).
- Sole Custody. In highly contentious custody disputes in which parents cannot effectively communicate or make decisions, sole custody is typically awarded to one parent. This custody authorizes only one parent or guardian to make parenting decisions, and the noncustodial party must follow and uphold such decisions. Typically, custodial parents will also retain primary physical custody of the child, and the noncustodial parent will be granted visitation.
- Shared Custody. Shared custody provides both parents with approximately equal physical custody of a child (e.g., a child may spend one week with the mother, followed by one week with the father). Courts are increasingly ordering shared custody, as it provides a more significant opportunity for children to foster meaningful relationships with both parents.
- Visitation. Visitation schedules can vary extensively; however, Virginia courts typically allow noncustodial parents to alternate weekends with a child. Alternatively, a visitation schedule may be nonspecific, meaning it changes to accommodate variable work schedules and a child’s needs. Further, in situations in which a parent has a history of substance or physical abuse, visitation may be supervised to ensure a child’s safety.
Do Virginia Courts Favor Mothers Over Fathers in Custody Decisions?
While historically mothers were favored over fathers in custody decisions, this is no longer the default determination.
As gender roles have progressed, so has Virginia’s child custody system. Consequently, both parents generally start on equal footing in family law cases, and courts determine custody and visitation based on what is in a child’s best interests (including the factors noted below).
At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we tenaciously advocate for our client’s rights, doing everything in our power to convince courts that our client’s preferred custody arrangement is in the best interests of a minor child.
What is Child Visitation?
In the context of a child custody case, visitation refers to a noncustodial parent’s rights to visit with a child (or as temporary custody that is granted for a limited period to a noncustodial parent or relative).
Virginia courts typically assume that it is beneficial for biological parents to have shared visitation unless there is a reason that it may be against a child’s best interests. If you are interested in seeking visitation (or contesting visitation), we can represent you in seeking your visitation objectives.
How Does a Court Determine Custody in Virginia?
When parents can effectively communicate and reach an agreement on a custody plan (and a court agrees that the arrangements are in the best interests of a child), this is typically the easiest way to settle a custody matter. In matters in which parents can agree on most matters but still have a few unresolved issues, it may be appropriate to pursue mediation. This process typically involves consulting with a neutral third party to help parents communicate and reach a final determination.
Unfortunately, many divorce and child custody cases are highly contentious, making it nearly impossible to agree on a custody arrangement. When this occurs, a court will typically establish custody rights and visitation schedules. When deciding what is in the best interests of a child, a judge is legally required to consider the following factors:
- The age and mental and physical condition of a child (giving consideration to a child’s changing developmental needs);
- The age and mental and physical condition of each parent;
- The existing relationship between each parent and child;
- The needs of the child (giving consideration to other vital relationships, such as siblings, peers, and extended family members);
- The role each parent plays in the upbring and care of a child;
- The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s relationship with the other parent (including if one parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access or visitation with the child);
- The willingness of each parent to maintain a close and meaningful relationship with a child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in resolving disputes regarding a child;
- The preference of a child (if the court deems a child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age, and experience to express such preference);
- Any history of family, sexual, child, or other abuse within the last ten years; and
- Any other factors that the court may deem necessary and proper to the determination.
It is critical to understand that, except for violence or abuse, courts typically weigh each factor equally, and judges generally do not give preference to one parent over the other based on gender. Ultimately, judges have broad discretion over custody and visitation arrangements but they are required to state on the record the reason for a final determination.
Am I Entitled to Visitation with My Child in Virginia?
Virginia law requires courts to provide a child with frequent and continuing contact with both parents. When one parent becomes the primary custodial parent (the parent with whom a child primarily lives), the other parent is generally entitled to visitation (absent extenuating circumstances, such as a history of sexual abuse perpetuated by the parent on the child).
Parents can attempt to arrive at a consensus regarding visitation, and if they are successful, the court will usually approve the agreement. However, if parents cannot amicably agree on a visitation schedule, the court will step in (in most cases) and make parenting time orders, which typically include alternating overnight weekend visits, holiday and school breaks (including birthdays), and summer visitation, as well as for instructions for pick-ups and drop-offs and travel responsibilities.
If you would like to seek to ensure that you have adequate parenting time with your child, to modify a visitation order, or are concerned that your child may be being mistreated during visitation, contact our office to learn how we can fight in seeking to protect you and your child’s rights.
What Is Supervised Visitation?
Although noncustodial parents are often awarded unsupervised overnight visitation with children, there are specific circumstances in which this may not be appropriate. If the court believes that a child may be in danger of physical, mental, or emotional harm, then the child’s safety must be addressed in a visitation order. In these types of situations, a judge may put certain restrictions in place, including (but not limited to):
- Visitation supervised by a court-approved third party
- A parent may be required to abstain from alcohol or controlled substance use for a certain period before visitation;
- A parent may be required to attend and complete outpatient treatment (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or medical detox); or
- Overnight visitation may be disallowed.
Can I Modify a Custody Order in Abingdon, VA?
Custody orders commonly become obsolete as a minor grows. For example, if a child takes part in extensive extracurricular activities, it may be challenging to do so when alternating between homes. Simply stated, what may have worked when a child was young may no longer be in the best interests of an adolescent in middle or high school.
If two parents agree to modify the terms of a custody order, a court will usually approve the changes. However, if two parents cannot agree but one party believes an original order needs to be changed, a formal modification request can be filed with the court. It is critical to note that courts favor stability; thus, a parent must typically demonstrate that since the original or last order, a material change in circumstances has occurred to justify a modification.
Until a custody modification order is approved, the original order must be followed, and a child cannot refuse to attend parenting time with either parent until they are 18 years old. If a custodial parent refuses to follow the original order or interferes with the other parent’s visitation, he or she may risk violating a court order (i.e., in contempt of court).
If you are seeking a custody modification lawyer, please contact our office.
Call Our Experienced Abingdon, Virginia Child Custody Lawyers & Visitation Attorneys to Learn About Your Rights.
At the Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we understand that no two custody and visitation matters are alike, which is why we always take the time to understand our clients’ unique situations.
If you are going through a child custody battle in Virginia and have questions, we invite you to call our office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced Abingdon custody and visitation attorneys to learn how we can fight for your legal rights and relationship with your child (or children).