Category:Custody


Cooling Hot-Button School-Related Co-Parenting Issues

Posted on September 11th, 2014, by Matthew Smith in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

As the calendar turns to September and football season begins anew, children all over the country have returned to school. For them, the carefree days of summer give way to the structured rigors of academic pursuits. But their parents may enjoy the respite that school hours provide.

With the start of a new school year upon us, perhaps it’s a good time to revisit some of the most contentious issues that separated or divorced parents grapple with when their children are in school.

Information Sharing. A classic area of animosity involves the use of children as a conduit for information between parents, which should generally be a no-no. This places your child squarely between you and your ex-spouse, and will lead to unintended negative consequences. There should be no need for Jimmy to tell mom about the parent-teacher conference next week, because … Read More »


Four Pitfalls to Avoid in Your Custody Case

Posted on September 3rd, 2014, by Stephanie Sauer in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

Parents sometimes unintentionally sabotage their own custody cases. Sometimes the sabotage happens before the parent retains counsel, and other times it happens after an attorney is involved. Here are four pitfalls to avoid if you want to win your custody case:

1. Failure to cooperate with all attorneys involved. If you are represented by an attorney, it is extremely unlikely that you will speak to opposing counsel, except at trial. However, you will need to interact with your own counsel and possibly one other attorney—a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). It is imperative that you are cooperative and honest with both these attorneys.

Hopefully, you hired your attorney because he or she is competent, knows the law, and impressed you. It is important to listen to your attorney’s advice. If you believe you are not receiving good advice then seek a second opinion before you disregard your attorney’s advice … Read More »


How Does Relocation Affect Your Custody and Visitation Order?

Posted on August 26th, 2014, by Anneshia Miller Grant in Custody, Family Law. 1 Comment

Summertime! It is the time of year where many of our military families are going through their permanent change of station (PCS) moves, and many of our civilian families are moving before the new school year begins.

What does relocation mean for separated or divorced parents who are co-parenting a child in Virginia? The juvenile and domestic relations district courts of Virginia will examine the best interests of the child in each case by applying the statutory factors of Virginia Code Section 20-124.3; but a relocating parent has a significant burden beyond those factors.

Where there is a current court order in place, an impending relocation is always considered a material change in circumstances which allows the court to re-examine the facts of the case.

Unfortunately for the parent hoping to relocate, the current trend of the Virginia Court of Appeals in the … Read More »


Child Preference in Virginia Custody and Visitation Cases

Posted on August 20th, 2014, by Jonathan McHugh in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

When a couple decides to separate and pursue a divorce, there are countless questions and issues that can arise. However, there are also some difficult questions that await the teenage child or children of divorcing parents. Perhaps the most difficult question to answer is: “Who do I want live with after Mom and Dad are divorced?” The answer to this question can go a long way towards determining the final custody and visitation arrangement for that child.

In making a custody or visitation determination, a Virginia court will consider what is in the best interests of the child, according to the factors laid out in Virginia Code Section 20-124.3. One of the most important factors listed in that code section is: “The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience … Read More »


Legal vs. Physical Custody in Virginia: What’s the Difference?

Posted on August 13th, 2014, by Carolyn Eaton in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

Every parent involved in a child custody dispute is concerned about the kind of custody and visitation arrangement that will result. Regardless of whether the court decides custody or the parents reach an agreement which is then approved by the court, there are two aspects of custody that must be addressed in every case: legal custody and physical custody.

In Virginia, one possible custody option is one parent being awarded sole legal custody and sole physical custody, with a visitation schedule for the other parent. An alternative to that “sole custody” arrangement would be “joint custody.”

Virginia Code Section 20-124.1 defines joint custody as follows:

joint legal custody, where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child even though the child’s primary residence may be with only one parent;
joint … Read More »


Family Care Plans and Custody Orders in Virginia

Posted on August 12th, 2014, by Anneshia Miller Grant in Custody, Family Law, Military Divorce. No Comments

A Family Care Plan (FCP) is a document that certain active duty or reserve servicemembers, and some DOD civilians, are required by the Department of Defense to maintain in order to ensure that their children (and incapacitated parents) are taken care of if they are called away to service.

Any person required by DOD Instruction 1342.19 to maintain a Family Care Plan must do so in a certain amount of time. Other than the requirements with respect to timely filing, the instructions are fairly broad as to what can and should be included in the FCP.

At a minimum, a Family Care Plan allows the military member to designate another party to care for his or her child during any period where the member is unavailable due to military service obligations.

Though the DOD requires this plan of action and files it in each servicemember’s … Read More »


Where Should You File Your Family Law Case?

Posted on July 28th, 2014, by Ariel Baniowski in Custody, Divorce, Family Law. No Comments

The Difference Between Jurisdiction and Venue

Jurisdiction and venue are two very different legal terms that are often, and wrongly, used interchangeably.

Jurisdiction is the power of a court to adjudicate a case upon the merits and dispose of it as justice may require. Litigants cannot bestow this power on the court by waiver or consent; jurisdiction can only be granted to a court by constitution or legislation. In Virginia, a court has jurisdiction over a family law case if it has (1) jurisdiction over the subject matter, (2) jurisdiction over the person, and (3) jurisdiction to render the specific relief sought. For example, pursuant to Virginia Code Section 20-96, the circuit courts in Virginia have jurisdiction over suits for annulment, divorce, separate maintenance, and for affirming marriages.

In contrast, venue is the place where the power to adjudicate a controversy is exercised, and it can be waived … Read More »


How to Lock in Your Custody Agreement and Avoid an Appeal

Posted on July 24th, 2014, by Benjamin Carafiol in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

The juvenile and domestic relations district courts (“J&DR courts”) in the Commonwealth of Virginia have jurisdiction over cases to determine child custody and visitation. While this jurisdiction is “concurrent” with the circuit courts (meaning either court can hear such a case), a vast majority of custody disputes begin—and end—in J&DR courts. Parties to custody cases before a J&DR court do retain the automatic right to appeal any decision to the circuit court for a brand new trial, meaning that parents could potentially have to go through a complete custody trial not once, but twice, before being able to move on with their lives.

This reason is one among many that could lead parties to resolve a custody battle through a negotiated agreement. But the last thing a parent wants to face is the other parent backing out of an agreed-upon custody arrangement, … Read More »


Military Deployment and Child Custody in Virginia

Posted on July 10th, 2014, by Anneshia Miller Grant in Custody, Family Law, Military Divorce. No Comments

“Im Deploying! How does that affect my custodial or visitation rights to my child?”

Deploying is a unique and difficult fact of life for most every military family. For those parents involved in a custody or visitation dispute, deployment can be an even more stressful event, as the deploying parent must also be concerned with arrangements for his or her child during the required absence.

Given that Virginia has the second largest military population in the United States, it is not surprising that in 2008 the Virginia legislature addressed the concerns of deploying parents with a statutory scheme designed to protect the custodial or visitation rights of our men and women in uniform.

The Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act, incorporated into Virginia Code Sections 20-124.7 through 20-124.10, defines who is considered to be a deploying parent, including not only active duty but … Read More »


The Primary Caregiver in Virginia Custody Cases

Posted on April 28th, 2014, by Carolyn Eaton in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

The central question for most parents facing a child custody battle is: “what are my chances at winning custody?” In many cases, the answer to this question depends upon the answer to another question: who is the primary caregiver? Many households are still arranged with one parent being the primary breadwinnner for the family and the other parent being the primary caregiver for the children. In those situations, the latter parent has a decided advantage in winning primary custody. However, Virginia law requires courts to look at the whole picture in deciding custody cases, and not determine custody solely on the primary caregiver factor.

Does Virginia Favor the Primary Caregiver?

Virginia law requires judges to base custody determinations on the best interests of the child, as determined by ten factors stated in Virginia Code Section 20-124.3. Neither parent is automatically favored in these … Read More »


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