One of the hardest decisions to make in a divorce case is determining arrangements for your children — how important decisions will be made for them in the future and when they will spend time with each parent. Sometimes, these issues are settled through mediation, negotiation, or collaborative divorce, and other times, they are aggressively fought for through divorce litigation in court. Like every family, each case is different. However, in every case, competent representation can put your mind at ease during a very stressful time.
In Northern Virginia child custody cases, the court makes a determination regarding who makes parenting decisions and a schedule for the children based on the best interests of the child. There are many custodial arrangements that can either be agreed upon or ordered by a court. We can help you explore options for you and your family in Fairfax County, Prince William County, and beyond. Call us at 703-222-3333 or use our online contact form.
A parenting plan in Northern Virginia is a schedule that lays out the amount of time each parent will have with their child(ren). This schedule can be agreed upon by the parents, or it can be imposed by a judge. A parenting plan specifically describes how parenting time is divided.
Even if a party is the primary custodial parent, he or she is subject to parenting time as outlined in a parenting plan. The specifics of parenting time for your family should be laid out in great detail in the parenting plan before considering the matter of custody and visitation resolved. Anything less could lead to confusion and resentment, with one party potentially filing a petition or motion to modify custody and visitation. One of our family law attorneys can help you iron out the details.
There are two types of custody in northern Virginia: legal custody and physical custody. Parties can either have joint legal custody or sole legal custody and primary physical custody or shared physical custody.
The differences in custody can be described as follows:
Regardless of whether your custodial arrangements are decided by the court or between the parents, issues relating to the children (legal and physical custody, time-sharing, or child support) may be reviewed and modified by the court after a material change in circumstances. This is because the court must always act in the best interests of the child, and those interests may change over time.
Child custody in Northern Virginia is determined by a Virginia family law court considering certain factors provided for in the Virginia Code when making a decision as to the best interests of the children. The relevant factors are:
When dealing with a child custody case, several complications can manifest that could make family law matters more difficult. These are some of the most common complications that our family lawyers may be able to help you navigate with legal counsel and representation.
While a parent may agree to a parenting plan on paper, their feelings could change as the end of their parenting time approaches. There are instances in which parents intentionally fail to return a child to the other parent to prolong their parenting time. Any violation of the parenting plan is a serious issue, and the specific details around a failure to return a child could warrant even more serious issues, such as parental kidnapping.
One parent limiting the contact of the other parent in violation of a parenting plan is another problem that could arise. This is why parenting plans need to be precise. If two parents decide to play it by ear or work it out among themselves without a detailed plan, one parent could assume that the other will take a back seat while the other wants an even 50/50 split.
Visitation schedules, as laid out in a parenting plan, are essential and must be maintained by both parents. While events can arise that necessitate some changes, this should not be a regular occurrence. If one parent keeps showing up at times that do not correspond with the visitation schedule, problems can manifest as they feel more confident about breaking the rules.
A parenting plan can also detail the specific duties of each parent involved in the child’s life, including providing proper medical care. When parents disagree on how medical care should be handled when the child suffers a personal injury or illness, problems can arise. This is why it is important to specify medical care and treatment plans in the parenting plan to help the child get the care he or she needs.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to modify your child custody agreement and the overall parenting plan. However, in order to move forward with a modification, the parent must demonstrate that there has been a material change of circumstances and that a modification in the parenting dynamic is in the child’s best interest. Help from a Virginia law firm with years of experience in custody cases may be what you need to demonstrate this.
Ideally, a child custody modification would be arranged for the benefit of everyone involved, much like an uncontested divorce. Reasons for a favorable modification may include a change in one parent’s work schedule or a parent moving to a new location. However, some reasons for modification may be tougher to deal with, so you should consult the child custody lawyers at our law offices before moving forward.
If the needs of the child have changed in a meaningful way, custody will have to reflect these new requirements. For example, a 50/50 split may no longer be favorable if a child needs extra attention after an accident, and one parent cannot dedicate that much time due to their work schedule. Another scenario may be one such that one of the parents develops a condition that prevents them from properly caring for the child. In these family law cases, a new custody arrangement may be necessary.
Our firm has practiced family law, including custody cases and spousal support cases, for over 40 years throughout northern Virginia, including Fairfax, Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, Vienna, Manassas, and Leesburg. Each divorce lawyer from our Northern Virginia family law firm will take the time to get to know your case in detail and guide you through a difficult process every step of the way with legal advice in a collaborative attorney-client relationship. Call us at 703-222-3333 or use our online contact form.