When parents can’t agree on custody arrangements, Virginia courts consider what are a child’s best interests before making a decision.
What Is Considered a Child’s Best Interest in Virginia?
Divorce can be a difficult process, especially when children are involved. You’ll often find it said that divorce courts try to address a child’s best interests. But what does that mean exactly?
When making decisions for physical and legal custody, for example, the court is going to make the decision that is best for the child and for their future. The parents do factor in, but they do not necessarily come first.
This sounds great in theory, but what factors are they actually looking at? What are the child’s best interests and how does the court quantify something like this when making decisions?
How Are Child’s Best Interests Determined
In Virginia, courts follow the “best interest of the child” standard when deciding child custody and visitation. That means that all custody and visitation decisions must be based on what is in the best interest of the child involved.
The Virginia court takes steps to ensure that both parents get a fair say in determining what is in the best interest of the child. Each parent will have the opportunity to present evidence and argue why their proposed custody arrangement is in their child’s best interests.
The court is required to consider many different factors regarding how the child’s life has been going and how it will continue. It can consider a child’s interests, education, and development, but health and child’s safety are always paramount.
Factors That Are Taken Into Consideration
The truth is that there are a lot of different things that the court has to look at, and no two cases are the same. All children and parents have unique situations that are going to influence what would be best for the child at that time.
Virginia Code §20-124.3 lays out the specific factors that the court must consider in making its determination. Some of the factors include:
- The child’s ties with extended family members
- Whether abuse or domestic violence has occurred
- Keeping the child in the same school system
- Who serves as the child’s main caretaker or a primary caregiver
- Each parent’s mental and physical health
- The child’s health and any additional needs that they may have
- The child’s own preferences any history of abuse or domestic violence
- The health and safety of each parent’s living situation and their financial stability
A child’s age may play a role in some of these factors. A younger child may be more likely to have a closer bond with their primary caretaker, for instance. An older child may have more say in where they want to live and their preferences may carry more weight.
Courts can also consider each parent’s ability to meet the child’s emotional and physical needs as well as their willingness to facilitate the other parent-child relationship.
It is important to note that the court may consider additional factors as it sees fit. Additionally, the court may weigh certain factors more heavily than others in making its ultimate determination.
The above can give you a few ideas of the things the court looks at, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. Custody decisions can be very complicated, and it’s important for all parents to understand what legal options they have.
How Can Our Attorneys Help
When it comes to child custody and visitation, the court’s ultimate goal is to ensure that the best interests of the child are protected.
If you are going through a divorce or custody dispute, understanding how the court determines what is in the child’s best interest can help you make a strong case for your preferred custody arrangement. Remember to prioritize your child’s needs, be respectful and cooperative, and work with your attorney to create a strong parenting plan that meets your child’s needs.
A well-practiced attorney will know which factors judges may place more weight on when determining a child’s best interest in Virginia child custody cases. Attorneys at Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC, have significant experience in child custody cases.
For more questions on the best interest of the child standard, contact our office and schedule a consultation so we can discuss your case.