Child Custody and Visitation Attorneys
Experienced child custody and visitation lawyers serving Fairfax, VA and surrounding areas
When parents separate or divorce, it is important to learn about child custody and visitation scenarios that are available and the ways that the law in Virginia apply. In many cases, the divorcing couple can ultimately reach agreement on who the children will reside with primarily, what the visitation schedule will look like for the non-custodial parent, and how they will handle decision-making for issues directly affecting the children’s health, education and future. When an agreement cannot be reached, however, seeking advice from a knowledgeable and experienced attorney is appropriate. The child custody attorneys at Leary Law know that child custody and visitation can be a highly emotional element, and almost every single family has its own unique set of circumstances. We will work with our client to understand their family’s personal needs, as well as helping our client understand how that fits into the legal big picture.
Physical Custody – The parent who has physical custody of the children has the duty to provide day-to-day care.
Legal Custody – The parent who has legal custody of the children has the right and responsibility of making decisions regarding the children’s health, education, and upbringing.
It is most ideal if parents are amenable to discussing and reaching agreements on matters of custody and visitation, as the alternative is to have a Judge make those decisions which will have long lasting and extremely important consequences upon the children and the family. There are two types of custody, but a myriad of combinations may be employed to decide upon custody arrangements, including the following:
- Sole physical custody occurs when one parent has exclusive responsibility to have the child live with him or her. In this scenario, the non-custodial parent may still have visitation with the child. An example of this scenario might be when the child resides with one parent while the other parent resides in another state.
- Sole legal custody occurs when one parent has the exclusive right to make all decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.
- In joint physical custody, the parents share physical custody and control of the child. An example might be when the child lives with one parent from Sunday evening thru Wednesday after school and the other parent from Wednesday evening to Sunday evening.
- In joint legal custody, the parents share in decision making. Oftentimes, the parents will make agreements for how to respond to emergency situations when one parent is not able to reach the other.
Determination of Custody and Visitation
Divorcing parents typically discuss custody and visitation issues as soon as they separate, and courts generally honor agreements the parents reach. However, when parents cannot agree, the law in Virginia provides for a number of procedures to resolve custody conflicts. Those procedures and how quickly they are triggered depend a great deal upon the jurisdiction (Fairfax, Prince William, Arlington, Alexandria) and the Court (Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court or Circuit Court). Typically however, the parents will be able to secure a fairly quick hearing for temporary relief, a decision by the Court on custody and visitation, which will be effective until the Court later enters a Final Order incorporating decisions on all critical issues.
Modification of Custody and Visitation
After a Court has entered a Final Order which resolves custody and visitation, those arrangements are controlling and can only be changed when the parties follow specific procedures. In order to support a request for a change to a custody or visitation arrangement, the parent seeking the modification must show a substantial change in circumstances unless there is a showing that the child is endangered by the current custody arrangement.