Written by attorney Charles R. Hofheimer

What to Expect in the Child Custody Process

If you're planning to file for child custody in Virginia, there's a detailed process to go through. A Newport News child custody attorney knows how much feeling goes into every client's custody pursuit. While custody can be an extremely emotional issue for the people involved, the law dictates the guidelines that everyone must follow in order to be considered as a potential guardian of a child.

There are different situations in which someone applies for custody of a child. The most common is in a divorce case when a parent is seeking to be the child's primary caretaker. In other scenarios, the parents are unmarried and breaking up, or someone is seeking custody of a relative's child.

The process of filing for child custody in Virginia begins when you consult an attorney. An attorney can help you with the filing process, which requires specific types of paperwork that need to be filed with the clerk of courts in your county. An attorney will also have experience dealing with custody cases and will be able to prepare you for things like the trial process, dealing with a guardian ad litem, and other possible challenges.

If it's a divorce or breakup situation, the parents can attempt to come to an agreement about custody on their own or with the help of a divorce mediator. Some states have made it mandatory for the parents to try mediation before heading to trial.

Having a mediator on the case can make a big difference because a mediator is trained to facilitate healthy communication between the parents. Collaborative family law can also be helpful. In collaborative law, the parents work with a team that includes a child psychologist or other child development specialist who can offer professional opinions and suggest creative solutions.

Overall, it's much less stressful for everyone involved if the parents choose some form of negotiation when deciding their child custody arrangements. Unfortunately, this isn't always possible. Sometimes couples simply can't come to agreements about these things, or one parent may be uncooperative. Child custody issues can be complicated by a variety of things and sometimes that means there needs to be a trial to determine who will get custody.

When filing for custody, it's important to keep in mind that the judge will be approving the custody arrangement. In Virginia, the court decides custody by trying to determine what is in the best interests of the child.

This means that the family court judge takes a variety of factors into consideration when determining which household best suits the child, including:

· the age of the child;

· the health of both parents and of the child;

· whether the child has any special needs;

· the willingness of each parent to cooperate with the other parent; and

· connections the child has to other family members on each parent's side.

If the custody decisions are made as part of a divorce, the custody arrangements will be detailed in your separation agreement or divorce decree. Custody orders can be modified if there are material changes (e.g. significant changes in either parent’s circumstances or lifestyle).

Contacting a Newport News Child Custody Attorney

At Hofheimer/Ferrebee, we understand that the health and happiness of your children is your #1 concern. We will work with you to address any fears and anxieties you may have about your children’s future. Our women’s-only divorce attorneys will guide you every step of the way to ensure that you achieve the best possible child custody and child support arrangements for you and your children.

To learn more about you Virginia divorce, request a FREE copy of our guide What Every Virginia Woman Should Know about Divorce, or reserve your seat at our monthly divorce seminar. Contact us at 757-425-5200.

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