Attorney and Counsellor at Law
What is Child Custody and who decides it?
The parents can establish an agreement on child custody and visitation matters or the Court may issue
orders. Child custody orders may be given to both parents, one parent, and in some cases non-parents.
There are two types of child custody orders: physical and legal. The parent who primarily lives with the child
has physical custody. The parent(s) who has the authority to make significant life decisions, such as a
decision pertaining to the education, health, and welfare of the child, has legal custody of the child. The
parent who does not have physical custody may be granted visitation rights and a schedule for visitation.
There are many ways the court may grant custody. For instance, parents may share both physical and
legal custody; one parent may have sole physical and sole legal custody; most often one parent has
primary physical custody, the other has visitation rights and the both parents share legal custody.

The parents may agree on Child Custody decisions or if there is no mutual agreement, the courts make
child custody decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child. In deciding what is in the best
interest of the child, courts may look at the following facts:

  • Health, safety, and welfare of the child
  Stability and continuity for the child is one of these most important factors.
  • Any history of abuse
  • Nature and amount of contact with both parents
  • use of alcohol and illegal drugs
  • Frequent and continuing contact with both parents
  • encourage parents to share
  • Wishes of the child, if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent
  • Parents may agree on custody arrangements:

Courts encourage parents to establish a custody agreement. Courts still must approve or disapprove the
agreement based on what is in the best interest of the child. If parents cannot reach an agreement, courts
may require the parents to attend mediation.

Mediation may be ordered when parents cannot reach an agreement pertaining to custody and visitation.
Attorneys should prepare clients prior to mediation. Some clients feel more confident being prepared and
knowing what might occur during the mediation session. If the parties fail to reach an agreement
subsequent to mediation, then courts will hear the issues and decide the matter for the parties.

Child Custody Evaluation
A child custody evaluation is an assessment of the children and parents that the courts may use when
making child custody or child visitation orders when there is a dispute among the parents. An evaluation
may consist of interviews, psychological exams, and analysis of the children, and perhaps the parents.

The court has the ability to deny a parent’s request for an evaluation. Parents may be liable for the cost of
the evaluation.

The court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interest of the child.

Changing Custody or Visitation:

Subsequent to a child custody or visitation order, parents generally are allowed to make changes. If parents
are not in agreement with the proposed change, then the parent seeking the change must first prove to the
Court that there has been a material change in circumstances and that the change will be in the child's best

We can help you in your custody and/or visitation case, call us for a consultation with a custody and
visitation lawyer  at (757) 271-3279 or send us an

P R A C T I C E   A R E A S :
                                            Child Custody / Visitation
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(757) 271-3279
Child Custody and Child Visitation Lawyer
Serving Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Virginia Communities
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Suite 101
Virginia Beach, VA 23454

Telephone: (757) 271-3279
Fax: (757) 216-9849
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