Chesapeake Child Custody Attorneys Advocate for Parents and Children
Experienced Virginia family lawyers protect your rights in custody cases
Despite being the third most populous city in Virginia, Chesapeake has an unusually rural character, and that mixture may be why it was rated the 21st best city in the United States to live in by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2011. As one of Virginia’s independent cities, it has its own set of trial-level courts. And like all American cities, it’s a place where divorce has the potential to upend family life, especially when children are involved. At Harding, Harding & Harding Attorneys at Law, our Chesapeake office provides a full range of family law services to residents of the city and surrounding areas. If you’re a parent whose marriage is ending, we have the skill and experience to protect you and your children in custody matters.
How Virginia courts decide child custody cases
Virginia recognizes several types of child custody:
- Joint or sole legal custody — While Virginia family courts prefer parents to share the legal authority to make important decisions about their children’s welfare, one parent can petition the court for sole decision-making authority.
- Joint or sole physical custody — Children can live either primarily with one parent (the custodial parent) or in a shared arrangement with both parents. Most noncustodial parents have the right to see their children regularly through visitation schedules.
- Third-party custody — This type of custody grants someone other than a parent, such as a grandparent, primary custody of the child, for a variety of reasons.
The court bases all child custody and visitation decisions on the best interests of the child. Factors the court considers include:
- The age and mental and physical condition of the child and parents
- The relationship between each parent and each child
- The needs of the child
- Each parent’s previous and future role in caring for the child
- Each parent’s propensity to actively support the child’s relationship with the other parent
- Each parent’s willingness and ability to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child and to cooperate in resolving disputes regarding the child
- The reasonable preference of a mature child
- Any history of real or threatened child abuse
The court may limit or deny the custodial or visitation rights of neglectful or abusive parents. If a custodial parent wishes to relocate, the court will usually require that parent to give the court and the noncustodial parent 30 days’ advance written notice of their intention. However, everything else being equal, the court will not give preference to mothers or fathers in custody determinations.
When other relatives may be entitled to custody or visitation rights
While the court stresses the importance of maintaining the parent-child relationship, it may conclude that the best interests of the child are not served by granting custody to either parent. If the court has clear and convincing evidence to that effect, it may award custody or visitation to another person with a legitimate interest, such as grandparents, step-grandparents, stepparents, former stepparents, blood relatives and other family members. We advocate for these family members in custody cases.
Child custody in military families
Deployments can make life complicated for divorced and legally separated soldiers and sailors who are custodial parents. While the service member is away and the other parent has sole custody on a temporary basis, there may be a hesitancy to relinquish that custody when the deployment ends. Our firm is committed to protecting your rights and those of your children when handling military families’ child custody disputes.
Modifying custody and visitation orders
Custody and visitation orders that were appropriate at the time of divorce may no longer make sense for you or your children when circumstances change. Relocation, failure to properly care for the child, or a change in a parent’s fitness to make decisions for the child may all make it necessary to petition the court for a modification of the original custody or visitation order. Our firm can help whether you seek a modification or oppose it.
Knowledgeable Chesapeake child custody attorneys ready to represent you
At Harding, Harding & Harding Attorneys at Law, we know how to defend your parental rights and help ensure your children’s welfare in child custody cases. To schedule a free initial consultation at our Chesapeake office, contact us online.