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The child’s best interests must come first in child custody cases

Most parents in Virginia want their child to be raised in a healthy, loving and supportive environment. Therefore, if parents are getting divorced, they may want to make sure that the child custody and visitation arrangements made in the final divorce decree meet all of their child’s needs. And, courts agree with this sentiment. Per Virginia Code, when making child custody and visitation decisions, courts will first and foremost focus on what is in the best interests of the child.

When determining what the child’s best interests are, courts will consider a number of factors. The age and developmental needs of the child will be considered, as will the child’s physical and mental health. The parents’ health will also be considered. The relationship each parent has with the child and the extent to which the parent is involved in the child’s life and can identify the child’s needs will also be considered. Whether the child has relationships with brothers, sisters, other relatives and friends may be considered as well.

Each parent’s ability to care for the child and be involved in the child’s upbringing both now and in the future will be considered. Each parent’s ability to support the child’s relationship with the other parent is also something the court will take into consideration, especially if one parent wrongfully kept the other parent from having the child in their care. Each parent’s ability to cooperate with one another when disagreements arise regarding the child is a consideration, as is each parent’s ability to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child.

If the child is of a sufficient maturity to express a preference as to which parent they want to reside with, the child’s wishes may be considered. The court will consider any past instances of domestic abuse or sexual abuse. Finally, as a catch-all, the court can consider other factors it decides are necessary to make a proper decision.

It is imperative that any child custody and visitation decisions made serve the child’s best interests. Divorce is a huge change, not just in the parents’ lives, but in the child’s as well. During a time of upheaval such as this, parents will have to pay close attention to their child, so they can meet their child’s needs. Therefore, the subsequent custody and visitation order needs to protect the child’s interests, so the child is raised in as optimal an environment as possible post-divorce.

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