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Custody Lawyers in Alexandria

On this page, we’ll cover:

  • How to file for custody in Alexandria, Virginia
  • How a Virginia court determines child custody
  • The different types of child custody you can pursue in Virginia
  • Why clients select ShounBach as the law firm to represent them in Northern Virginia child custody matters
  • Answers to frequently asked questions about obtaining child custody in Alexandria

Securing child custody in Virginia can involve navigating a complex legal and emotional landscape. For parents, the process goes beyond legal formalities; it is an emotionally charged pursuit deeply connected to the welfare of their child.

These emotional challenges are further complicated by the intricacies of Virginia’s family law system. During the process, families go through a myriad of emotions and challenges:

  • Concerns about losing significant time with their child
  • Being unable to make critical decisions about a child’s upbringing
  • Virginia’s legal system, with its specific procedures and technical language, can be daunting, adding to the stress of the situation.
  • Stress can also impact the child during a time when they require the most support and stability.
  • Difficulties can intensify during the custody battle process, particularly in cases where there is significant contention.

Working with an experienced Alexandria child custody attorney may be helpful. The understanding and caring Virginia child custody lawyers at ShounBach can represent parents in court and help guide them through the legal process.

The goal of our child custody lawyers is to secure a resolution that aligns with the child’s welfare and the parent’s rights, enabling a stable and positive future for the child. To schedule a consultation, call the ShounBach law office at 703-222-3333.

How Do I File for Custody of My Child in Virginia?

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Either parent can file for the custody of minor children in the Commonwealth of Virginia. According to Virginia law, no preference is given to parents. Both parents have equal rights to both the physical and legal custody of their child. However, to file for custody, a few factors apply:

  • Parent should have regular contact with their child.
  • Parent pursuing custody cannot have a history of domestic abuse against anyone in their family.
  • Parents convicted of sexual abuse against their child cannot file.
  • If parents are not married, paternity may need to be established.
  • Other interested parties may potentially be able to file for custody of a child (speak with a knowledgeable Virginia custody lawyer to see if this applies to your situation).

If you are pursuing child custody, you should file with the Circuit Court of Virginia if you already have a court case with divorce, annulment, or another family court legal issue. Otherwise, you should file your custody case with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

Determining Child Custody in Alexandria, Virginia

A Virginia court decides custody by doing an evaluation of what is in the best interest of the child. The court will look at several factors.

  • Age of the child
  • Physical and mental condition of the child
  • Age of each parent
  • Physical and mental condition of each parent
  • Existing relationship between each parent and each child, including positive involvement in their child’s life and ability to meet their needs
  • Specific needs of each child, considering other important relationships the child has with other familial members and peers
  • Role each parent has in their child’s life and what role they will play in the future in the care and upbringing of the child
  • Inclination of each parent to support a relationship with the noncustodial parent (and whether they would deny a relationship with the other parent)
  • Child’s preference of whom to live with if they are old enough and/or have reasonable decision-making capacity
  • Any other factors the court deems necessary to help it facilitate a custody decision

The court will also examine familial history to determine if any abuse or neglect has occurred as defined by § 16.1-228 or violence, threat, or force as defined by § 19.2-152.7:1.

Types of Custody in Alexandria, Virginia

In Virginia, a parent can pursue one of two different types of custody: sole custody and joint custody. This is in accordance with Virginia Code § 20-124.1.

Sole Custody

In a sole custody decision, one parent is given physical custody of the child, along with the primary responsibility to care for the child, making the day-to-day decisions regarding their child’s life. Virginia courts almost always reserve sole custody decisions for certain scenarios:

  • Parents’ relationships with one another are too contentious to speak to one another.
  • One parent undermines the other and attempts to encourage parental alienation.
  • A parent is abusive toward the child.
  • A parent denies the other visitation access to the child.

In the event sole custody is granted, the custodial parent, in most circumstances, is supposed to have “meaningful” conversation with the noncustodial parent about important or major decisions about the child (e.g., education, medical decisions, and religion). However, the custodial parent has the final decision.

Joint Custody

Joint custody decisions are far more common in Virginia than sole custody. A joint custody decision means both parents have equal decision-making power when it comes to major decisions about their child(ren). Virginia defines joint custody as:

  • Joint physical custody
  • Joint legal custody
  • Any combination of the two (e.g., a judge may separate physical and legal custody where one parent has sole physical custody, but shares joint legal custody, giving both parents an equal say about major decisions in the child’s life)

In a joint custody scenario, both parents are granted responsibility for their child’s physical, emotional, and moral development, sharing equal rights as they co-parent together. In many cases, a child shares time living with each parent. Courts decide based on what works with the child’s schedule and promote their best interests.

Split Custody

In families with more than one child, a court may allow “split” custody where one child lives in one household and the other in the other parent’s household.


Under some circumstances, a family may have a “bird’s nest” type of custody, which is often referred to as “nesting.” Nesting means parents share custody, but they take turns leaving the family home, giving children the stability of staying in one home all the time.

Why Clients Choose ShounBach

Many people seeking an Alexandria family law attorney for legal services turn to ShounBach for help. We are a family law firm with 45+ years of experience serving Alexandria and Fairfax County. The attorney-client relationship is very important to us, and as family lawyers, our goal is to provide solid legal advice as we help families successfully navigate difficult legal matters.


“I’m happy to recommend Ms. Hope Rosen and the ShounBach law firm to litigate any family law matters. I contacted Ms. Rosen at one of the low points of my life. I had just learned my wife of 7 years and the mother of my three minor children was having an affair. Ms. Rosen navigated me through the separation, helping me with custodial rights to my children. When my former partner went low and removed the children from the state and accused me of horrible things, Ms. Rosen worked with my criminal defense attorney to refute the allegations. Ms. Rosen astutely worked through this acrimonious divorce and negotiated a marital settlement agreement. She understood and respected my priorities, winning 50% custody of my children, preserving my [share] of marital assets, offloading a large portion of the debt my former partner created, and helping me keep full rights to my substantial retirement.” – Bill G.

“My experience with Elizabeth M. Bookwalter as my family lawyer from ShounBach was an absolutely great experience. She was always very attentive to all the details and compassionate with the right level of empathy at the very right moments. She also has great command skills and provided excellent guidance at key moments on my journey with her as my lawyer.  I found the personalized experience I received, backed with her great expertise, was one that I am very thankful to have discovered.  I would highly recommend anyone looking for similar support to leverage Elizabeth as their lawyer…  I couldn’t be any more pleased with this choice of having her as my family lawyer.” — Michael K.

Frequently Asked Questions For Child Custody

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Parents often have many questions when it comes to child custody. In this section, our law firm will answer some of the most common questions we see.

What is a Parenting Plan in Virginia?

A parenting plan outlines the details of a co-parenting arrangement, giving parents a tool to:

  • Manage their rights and responsibilities
  • Meet the needs of their children
  • Prevent or resolve discord with the other parent
  • Plan for their child’s future.

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

A guardian ad litem is an attorney who meets special qualifications set forth by the Commonwealth. This is a family lawyer appointed by the court who gives the court independent recommendations regarding a child’s best interest in child custody cases.

Can a Custodial Parent Deny Visitation in Alexandria, Virginia?

For a parent to deny visitation to a noncustodial parent, there must be a compelling reason. In most circumstances, a custodial parent cannot deny visitation as this violates their court order.

How Do I Get Child Support in Alexandria, Virginia?

To obtain child support in Alexandria, you must submit your request to an Intake Unit where an Intake Officer reviews and verifies the residency requirements for both you and/or your child’s other parent. Next, you will schedule an appointment to come in to file your child support claim. Prepare to have the following:

  • Current address and phone number for both parents
  • All dates of birth
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Former support orders
  • Employment/income information

Child support determinations are done by using formulas that factor in custody arrangements, income of both parties, childcare costs, health insurance costs, and other relevant financial information.

Can Custodial Parents Move Out of State With Children?

Whether you, as the custodial parent, can move out of state depends upon the specifics of your court order. We recommend you contact an attorney because each situation is different.

Let Us Help With Your Custody Case

ShounBach is a family law and estate planning/administration firm. We focus entirely on family law issues, giving us the experience and knowledge you need when pursuing child custody. Our award-winning attorneys are here to help you with any family law issue you have, from child custody, spousal support/alimony, visitation, protective orders, child support, domestic violence, or any other family law practice areas.

Our firm has been given numerous accolades, landing positions in Super Lawyers®, Best Lawyers in America ®, and Lawyer of the Year, along with many Virginia and D.C. area recognitions.

Facing a custody battle is difficult, but we can help ease your stress. Call today to schedule an appointment with our custody and divorce lawyers at 703-222-3333 or fill out our online contact form.

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Written By ShounBach

Since 1975, ShounBach has served the Northern Virginia community. Our team brings over 200 years of combined legal experience and has grown to be one of Virginia’s largest family and estate law firms.

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
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