The key consideration for the child custody and visitation decision-making is the “best interests of the child”. The absolute controlling consideration in any custody and visitation case is the “best interests of the child”. This determination applies regardless of any agreement the parents may wish to enter regarding custody and visitation. In order to determine the “best interests of the child,” the court must consider a number of factors. These factors are set forth in Virginia Code 20.124.3. No one factor carries any more weight than any other does. The court is required to consider all the factors and then balance them when making a decision.
The factors are as follows:
- Consider the mental and physical condition and age the child
- Paying due consideration to the changing developmental needs of child
- Each parent’s physical and mental condition and age
- The existent relationship between each child and each parent
- Assessing the ability of each parent to absolutely assess and meet the intellectual, physical, and emotional needs of the child
- Provide due consideration of child needs with respect to his or her belongings to important relationships but not limited to peers, extended family members, and siblings
- The role played by each parent and will be played in the future in terms of care and upbringing of the child
- The intent or orientation of both parents to actively favor the child’s relationship, contact, and interaction with either of them, regardless of whether a parent has perversely denied the other parent visitation with the child or access to the child
- The intent, nature, and capability of each parent to develop a continuing and close relationship with their child so that the matters of child could not be negatively influenced
- A rational preference of the child as per the court evaluation criteria for the soundness of child to make decision
The interplay of all of these factors can lead to various results. If you are facing a contested custody and visitation case then it is imperative that you seek advice and legal representation from an experienced family law attorney or child custody and visitation lawyer.
Modification or revision of a Virginia child custody
Revision and modification of a Virginia custody or visitation decree are generally addressed by Virginia Code § 20-108. What this code section basically states is that a court may modify a decree on its own initiative or when a petition is filed for modification by either party, as the circumstances of the parents and the benefit of the children may require.
A parent that wants to modify (change) an existing custody or visitation order must show some change in conditions that materially affects the “best interests of the child”. The deliberate withholding of visitation of a child from the other parent without just cause may develop a material alteration of circumstances justifying a change of the child custody in court discretion. The revisions or modifications in terms of child custody in Virginia are reliant as per the mutual decisions of each parent; however, the maintenance of child interests is compulsory.