Divorcing is difficult, especially when children are involved. Both parents often want to be involved in the lives of their children, so when it comes to custody, there may be some disagreement as to who gets the majority of the time with the children.
Ideally, the parents would come to an agreement on child custody and ensure time is split fairly between the parents. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Children are often used as pawns in divorces, as parents battle it out with no regard for the child’s feelings.
When parents cannot agree, the court steps in. Judges will make decisions based on the best interests of the child. What exactly does this mean? Read on to learn more.
What are the Best Interests of the Child?
Under Code of Virginia § 20-124.3, there are many factors involved when determining the best interests of the child. They include the following:
- Age and health of the child. This includes physical and mental conditions that may play a role in who gets custody. It also considers the child’s changing needs. For example, a young child may want to be with their mother, but as they get older, they may feel more attached to their father.
- Age and health of each parent. This also includes any relevant physical and mental conditions. For example, is the parent able to care for the child without any limitations? Are they older or suffering from health problems that make this challenging?
- Relationship between the parent and child. Does the child have a bond with the parent? Is the parent positively involved in the child’s life?
- The role each parent plays. Is child care split 50/50, or does one parent do the majority of caring for the child? What does the mother do, and how does the father contribute?
- Needs of the child. Can the parent provide the child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing?
- How the parent supports the child’s relationship with the other parent. Does the parent allow the child to have a relationship with the other parent, or do they try to keep the child away?
- Cooperation between the parents. Can the parents get along with each other enough to successfully co-parent? Are the needs of their child a priority?
- Child’s preference. While there is no minimum age at which a child can express their preference for a parent, the judge is looking for reasonable age and maturity. So while a 4-year-old would not qualify, a 14-year-old might. However, the judge will want to know why the child wants to be with a certain parent. If it is because they are overly permissive or spend money freely, that’s not a reasonable answer.
Contact Us Today
Child custody can be a contentious issue. If both parents want custody, then it can be a nasty battle.
If you and your spouse cannot come to a child custody agreement on your own, you will likely need to go before a judge. The team at Virginia Family Law Center will help you understand what the court expects. Call (703) 865-5839 or fill out the online form to schedule a consultation.