Child custody can be a challenging decision for any couple. Often, these decisions can be a point of contention for many parents, and there are many factors to consider when you and your child’s other parent are determining custody. Find answers to the top 8 child custody questions to help you begin your child custody case.
1. How Do I Prepare for a Child Custody Hearing?
Work with your child custody attorney to devise a plan for your court appearances. Making these plans well in advance can help you seem more confident and prepared in court. Your appearance and behavior are also important factors that are taken into account during the court proceedings, so it is important to dress appropriately and brush up on courtroom etiquette with your lawyer. The judge’s impression of you can heavily influence the outcome of your case.
2. Do I need to File a Parenting Plan with the Courts?
In Virginia, a parenting plan is a necessary part of a child custody case. This plan will outline your agreements on the child’s residence, expenses, visitation, and more. You and the other parent can create a parenting plan on your own, but if you cannot agree on the terms, the court will devise a parenting plan for you. It is usually in a family’s best interest to devise the parenting plan on their own. If you are struggling to agree, you may want to explore mediation to help you resolve your dispute. Learn more about mediation in child custody cases below.
3. How Do Courts Determine Custody?
Many factors are considered when the court is deciding a custody ruling. These factors may include:
- Each parent’s wishes
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child
- The current custody arrangements, if any
- The child’s current relationship with both parents
- The child’s special needs, if any
- The best interest of the child
- The child’s age
The court will weigh each factor carefully before making a decision regarding the child’s custody.
4. Do I need a Child Custody Attorney?
Custody disputes can be complicated legal processes and having an experienced child custody attorney to help you can give you the best chances of achieving a fair, desirable custody agreement. Your lawyer will help you advocate for your own interests and can help you prove that you deserve custody of your child. In addition to representing you in court or settlement meetings, they can provide valuable legal insight.
5. Are Judges Biased against Fathers in Child Custody Cases?
The courts are forbidden from discriminating against either parent, but it is common for them to award custody to the mother under the belief that she is the primary caregiver for the child. If you are a father who wishes to gain custody of your child, you will need to demonstrate that you are an important part of your child’s life and that you are highly involved. Do not bash your child’s mother or attempt to limit your child’s contact with her while you are proving that you are the better choice.
6. Can Mediation Be Used to Resolve Our Custody Dispute?
If you wish to avoid a court battle but are struggling to resolve your differences, mediation can help. In mediation, both parties work with an impartial mediator, who manages the discussion and ensures that all sides are heard and considered. A qualified mediator may help you and your child’s other parent reach an agreement in a timely manner.
7. What Does “The Best Interests of the Child” Mean?
When assigning custody, the court wants to ensure that the decision is the best choice for the child. The court will attempt to balance the parents’ desires for custody with what the court feels is best for the child. Factors such as the child’s needs, relationships with each parent, and each parent’s ability to care for the child help the court to make the custody decision. Often, a custody agreement that allows the child to maintain a relationship with both parents will be considered in the child’s best interests.
8. What is the Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody?
Legal custody is the ability to make decisions on the behalf of the child, while physical custody refers to where the child resides. A parent may have legal custody without also having physical custody. You and your child’s other parent may consider what type of custody is best for your family, such as shared parenting.
Child custody cases can be stressful for everyone involved. Our Fairfax child custody attorneys understand the strain this process can have, and we are committed to helping your family through this difficult time. At Malinowski Hubbard, PLLC, our team offers compassionate, proven legal representation for your custody dispute needs. Contact our firm by calling (703) 935-4222 to learn more about how we can help.