Child custody battles can be a stressful and traumatic experience for all parties involved. While parents may experience a total loss of control, so can the children who are involved. If you and your co-parent are involved in a contentious child custody hearing, you may be wondering whether you can just let your shared child or children choose. However, this is a complex topic that must be approached and handled with care, as it can have serious emotional consequences for a child, and may not carry as much weight as you expect it to in court.
First off, it should be noted that a court must only determine custody if the co-parents have failed to do so on their own. Parents will retain the most control and will be most likely to negotiate a mutually agreeable outcome with regard to custody if they do so on their own outside of court. They may utilize attorneys, a mediator, or other forms of arbitration in order to reach an agreement. The mediator may even consider input from the children.
In the event that parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own or with help, however, the court will need to determine the issue of custody. In making this decision, the court will determine what is in the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child is determined by the court using a number of factors. These factors can include things like the age, gender, and physical and mental needs of the child. The court can also consider how close each parent lives to the child’s school, social network, extracurricular activities, family, and support. Other factors that may be relevant include whether one or both parents have a history of domestic violence or substance addiction or abuse.
The judge may also consider whether the child has a preference as to who they would like to live with. However, in order to consider the child’s preference the judge must determine that the child is of reasonable age and experience to have a legitimate opinion on the matter. The judge may also choose to exclude consideration of the child’s opinion if their rationale appears to be unreasonable. For instance, if a child wants to live with their father because he has junk food, or their mother because she never disciplines them, these points may not be considered, or may be considered to weigh against physical custody. A lawyer can help you come up with a litigation strategy that will support you in achieving your child custody goals.
If you are going through a custody battle or are preparing for one, it is important to have an experienced legal advocate in your corner. The experienced child custody attorneys at the Virginia Family Law Center are ready to fight to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family. Contact the Virginia Family Law Center today to schedule your consultation.
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