Divorce itself is tough enough. The process becomes even tougher when children are involved. One of the most contentious issues during divorce is usually the establishment of a custody and visitation arrangement. This goes far beyond the simple questions of who gets custody and who gets visitation rights.
Pretty much every family court uses the “child’s best interest” standard when determining custody. To arrive at this, the family court takes certain factors into account. Here are three of them:
Both parents’ living situations
If you are putting up at a friend’s while picking up the pieces of your life and getting back on your feet after divorce, you may not get shared custody. If you truly want to spend more time with your kids after divorce, it is important that your living situation is reflective of this. The judge wants to know that the children have beds of their own, some security and space.
Each parent’s relationship with the child
The family court will consider each parent’s actual ability to effectively care for their child. This goes beyond the child’s material needs. A parent with a history of physical and emotional abuse may not be awarded custody even when they are capable of providing for the child. The same applies to a parent with a history of sex offenses or substance abuse.
The child’s preferences on the matter
In Virginia, the court may inquire about the child’s preferences regarding their living situation and custody — but only when the child is deemed to be old enough, mature enough and intelligent enough to express their reasoning.
As mentioned, these aren’t the only issues that the court can (and will) consider. However, they are three important ones. The better you understand the criteria used by the court when custody decisions are made, the better you can plan your approach to the issues.