Virginia’s family law code makes the children’s best interests the primary concern in all child custody cases. By focusing on the children’s needs over those of their parents, the law seeks to avoid custody decisions that sacrifice children’s well-being to their parent’s motives, which are usually pure — but not always.
There is no set definition of “best interests.” Instead, state law requires parents and family court judges to consider the following factors when determining a particular child’s best interests when a child custody arrangement is necessary:
- The child’s age, physical condition and mental condition
- The parents’ ages, as well as their physical and mental conditions
- The child’s current relationships with each parent
- Other vital relationships to the child, such as with grandparents, friends and siblings
- Each parent’s role in the child’s upbringing
- The parent’s ability to resolve disputes about the child between themselves
- Depending on the child’s age and ability to express themselves, their personal preference
- Any evidence of domestic violence or sexual abuse
- Other factors that the judge finds it is necessary to include
If your child custody dispute reaches court, you and your co-parent will each have the chance to present evidence on these factors to make the case for your preferred custody plan. Your attorney will sort through the evidence, likely using expert witnesses, to advocate for you at the hearing.
The most important thing you can do for your children
Your children are special. They deserve a child custody arrangement tailored to their individual needs. The best interests standard helps protect your children from an unjust court order, but the best thing you can do for your kids to retain a family law attorney with plenty of experience in child custody matters. Whether you are going through divorce or not, your children’s best interests, as well as your parental rights, deserve high-quality legal representation.