Virginia Beach Child Custody Lawyer

There are few things in life that bring us as much love and joy as do our children. From the moment they are born, our first instinct is to love and protect them. We enjoy the time that we are able to spend with them and hurry back to them if we have to be away. Sadly, in many cases of divorce, individuals become separated from their children due to disagreements with soon-to-be ex-spouses involving child custody. For more than two decades, our Virginia Beach child custody lawyers have fought to maintain the parental rights of those who are intent on continuing a healthy relationship with their children. Our family attorneys have the skill and knowledge necessary to handle your case. Call Parks Zeigler, PLLC, and schedule an initial consultation at our law office.

How Does Virginia Decide Who Gets Child Custody?

Child custody and visitation matters are often the most contentious issues related to divorce cases. In Virginia, there are several options that are available for child custody issues. When deciding the issue of child custody, a judge will always rule in what they determine to be in the best interest of the child’s welfare. More often than not, the courts will award shared or joint legal custody even if the parents do not necessarily get along well with one another. The prevailing thought has both parents in a child’s life are best for their overall well-being.

Some of the basic terms related to child custody are as follows:

Child Custody/Visitation

During divorce proceedings, the issue of who the child will eventually live, along with deciding the visitation schedule, can be extremely contentious. Because of the strict laws that revolve around child custody, it is extremely vital that you hire an experienced custody attorney to assist you in handling all of the legal issues that will eventually need to be decided. Some of the types of child custody include:

Sole Custody

This type of custody arrangement is rare in Virginia. It is more often than not limited to cases where one parent has denied the other parent reasonable access to the child, committed child abuse, or been guilty of parental alienation. In this type of custody arrangement, the custodial parent maintains primary control of the child’s overall development. The courts also use the term “sole” (or “primary”) for physical custody arrangements where one parent has the child in their care for more than 275 days per year.

Joint Legal Custody

This is the most common type of custody arrangement in Virginia as it is considered to be the best option in view of a child’s overall positive growth. In joint legal custody, both parents share the ability to make decisions and work together to decide what is best for their children in terms of their moral, physical, and emotional development. Even if the child lives primarily with one parent, also known as the primary physical custodian, both parents have the legal ability to share in making the important decisions that affect the child’s well-being.

Joint Physical Custody/Shared Custody

This refers to a custody arrangement where the child splits their time between both parents. In this type of arrangement, each parent has the child for more than 90 days out of the year. This can include a child spending the summer with one parent or alternating living with each parent on a weekly basis. This type of custody arrangement is less common than that of joint legal with primary physical custody.

Parenting Plans

This is also sometimes referred to as a custody agreement. It aids in determining how each parent will share parental responsibilities, plan for their child’s future, as well as work out any potential conflicts that may arise in the future.

Supervised Visitation

This type of visitation refers to when a noncustodial parent is required to have another individual with them to ensure that the visitation is safe for the child.

Father’s Rights

In Virginia, the courts do not naturally favor a mother in cases that involve child custody or visitation rights. Judges make their determinations based on what they deem to be in the best interest of the child. As such, this gives precedence to the fact that fathers have an equal right to gain custody of their children.

A child custody case can be very complex and highly emotional due to the uncertainty of the outcome. It is highly recommended that you retain a child custody lawyer in Virginia Beach to help you understand and fight for your legal rights.

The various aspects surrounding family law are distinct to each family situation and their particular situation. At Parks Zeigler, PLLC, we understand your concerns and will work diligently to be sensitive to your individual needs while fighting for your legal rights.

What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do?

In Virginia, if you have been involved in a child visitation or custody case, it most likely will be heard in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. There are several different types of cases that can be brought before this court, including cases where the custody, visitation, support, or parentage of a child needs to be decided. Once it has been determined that your case is being heard in this court, there is a high probability that the court will appoint a guardian ad litem, also referred to as “GAL.”

The main purpose of the GAL is to represent the child and fully protect the child’s welfare and interests. A local attorney will be certified to serve as the GAL. Their role is to inform the court of what they believe to be in the child’s best interest as it pertains to custody and visitation.

The court has the legal ability to appoint a GAL even if the two parties involved in the case object. Each party will receive information that gives the name and phone number of the GAL. However, if a party has retained legal counsel, the GAL is not permitted to make contact until the party’s legal counsel authorizes communication. It is essential to understand that the GAL does have the legal authority to speak with the child(ren) even if the parties do not consent.

The GAL has the ability to meet with the child either at school or at the home of one or both parties involved in the custody case. When the GAL visits the home, this gives them the opportunity to gather facts as to the conditions that are present in the home. The main area of focus in a home visit is to determine if the home in question can provide a safe environment for the child to live in.

The GAL also has the legal obligation to determine if a child’s sleeping area is appropriate for the child. Typically, the general rule is that each child should have their own bed in a bedroom. Sleeping areas should not be in areas such as a living room or family room.

The GAL will most likely also communicate with extended relatives, teachers, counselors, and other individuals who have important roles in the children’s lives.

The GAL is obligated to 11 standards:

  1. Have a face-to-face meeting with the child.
  2. Conduct their own independent investigation to gather the facts of the case.
  3. Help to advise the child on the nature of court proceedings, the possible ramifications that may result from those proceedings, their rights, and the role of the GAL.
  4. Participate as necessary in pre-trial conferences, mediation, and negotiations.
  5. Make certain that the child attends all of the proceedings as mandated.
  6. Appear in court fully prepared to vigorously represent the child’s best interests.
  7. When deemed necessary and applicable, prepare a child to testify in an effort to uphold the child’s welfare.
  8. Report information to the court based on findings from independent investigations and interviews. This information can also be used to make recommendations as to court action that should be taken.
  9. Maintain a professional working relationship while coordinating and communicating with all of the parties involved.
  10. File all necessary motions, petitions, briefs, pleadings, or appeals on behalf of the child along with ensuring the child is properly represented by a GAL in any legal appeal involving the case.
  11. Advise the child in age-appropriate terms as to the court’s decision and the consequences for the child along with other individuals in the child’s life.

If your child has been appointed a guardian ad litem, it is highly advisable that you hire an experienced child custody attorney in Virginia Beach who can advise you of the steps in this legal process while protecting your legal rights.

At What Age Can a Child Decide Which Parent They Want to Live With?

In Virginia, there is no age specified by law that dictates that a judge is legally obligated to consider a child’s opinion on custody matters. Courts can decide whether or not to include a child’s preference on a case-by-case basis which is dependent on a child’s intelligence and ability to understand. Children who have reached the age of 14 and older are considered to basically have the maturity necessary to express their personal preference as to who they would like to live with. That being said, it is still necessary for a judge to make final determinations as to the custody arrangements. However, the court does take its opinions into account when making its decision.

While children do have the ability to voice their preferences as to who they would prefer to live with, the judge is still legally obligated to determine a custody arrangement in Virginia Beach that best suits the needs of the child.

Call a Virginia Beach Child Custody Attorney for Help

The Virginia Beach child custody attorneys at Parks Zeigler, PLLC, realize that having to deal with a divorce is stressful, to say the least. No one ever anticipates that they will eventually have to go through the traumatic process involved with a divorce. Coupled with the issues that surround child visitation rights and custody, this can be almost too much to bear. Our attorneys can give you the personalized attention that you deserve as we work to gain the best outcome for you and your child. We strive to treat each client with the care and compassion that they need as we work to maintain and preserve their legal rights. Contact our law firm today and schedule a consultation to discuss your legal situation.

Areas We Serve

With an office near Town Center, Virginia Beach and a second location beside the Chesapeake courthouse, our team provides quality legal representation across the entire Hampton Roads Area.

  • Virginia Beach
  • Hampton
  • Chesapeake
  • Newport News
  • Norfolk
  • Yorktown
  • Portsmouth
  • Accomack County
  • Suffolk
  • Northampton County

Parks Zeigler, PLLC – Attorneys At Law

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