No Two Custody Cases are the Same.
Every child custody issue is unique just like the families that find themselves in the midst of custody disputes. However, the guiding principle is always “the best interests of the child”. A family law or divorce lawyer experienced with child custody cases can certainly explain this in more detail as part of a consultation but here is a primer to get you started.
How are a child’s “best interests” determined?
Determining what is in the best interests of the child requires a court to look at some of the basic facts that are implied in every parent-child relationship. How these facts are weighed differs from case to case and court to court. This is why we recommend a consultation with a family law or divorce lawyer if you are facing a custody situation.
Sometimes what is in the best interest of one child is not in the best interests of his or her sibling(s). Every detail matters. The whole always amounts to more than the sum of the parts. For a more complete review of child custody laws in Virginia please refer to our main page on the topic.
Essential considerations for every child custody case.
Despite the importance of details there are a number of basic “facts” that are almost always accounted for in the process of determining children’s best interests. Here is a list of some of the more common ones:
- child’s age
- child’s physical and mental health as well as maturity
- child’s activities, peer, and sibling relationships
- child’s preference for living with either parent
- the care-taking roles historically played by each parent including involvement in school, homework, recreational activities, extra-curricular activities
- the time each parent has available to care for the child, i.e. work schedules
- parents’ age
- parents’ physical and mental condition
- parents’ career and living plans
- parents’ use of alcohol or drugs
- parents’ moral character
- parents’ history of fostering or obstructing the other parent’s relationship with the child
- parents’ ability to communicate with one another and with the child
- parents’ access to support from family and friends
- parents’ styles of discipline
- any history of family violence
This is no where near a complete or exhaustive list but I hope it helps you to grasp the breadth of issues that come into play when determining what is best for your children when faced with a custody dispute.
Questions a divorce lawyer should ask in a consultation concerning your custody case.
Here some questions you should be ready to answer when meeting with a lawyer to discuss your case:
- Where do you and your spouse work? What is your work schedule?
- How was the decision made to have children?
- What roles did you and your spouse play in the first 6 months of your child’s life?
- What roles did you and your spouse play in the first 3 years of your child’s life?
- What role do you and your spouse currently play in your child’s life?
- Describe a typical day in your child’s life including your involvement in it?
- Who regularly prepares meals for your child?
- Who most frequently eats meals with your child?
- What does your child like/dislike to eat?
- Who shops for food for your child?
- Who dos your child’s laundry?
- Who attends to your child’s cleanliness, gives baths, oversees teeth-brushing etc.?
- Who takes you child to doctor and dental appointments?
- How many times has your spouse taken the child or attended doctor or dental appointments?
- Is your child current with all vaccinations?
- Does your child take any medications regularly?
- What medications does your child take and who administers them?
- Who prepares paperwork for your child to attend school?
- Who takes your child to school/gets child ready for school?
- Who helps with homework? How often? How much?
- Who picks your child up from school or daycare?
- How often have you or your spouse met with school teachers or attended parent meetings at school?
- How is your child doing in school?
- Describe your child’s friends at school? at home?
- How many days has your child been tardy or absent from school in the last year?
- Who picks your child up from school if he or she is sick? How many times has this occurred?
- Describe where you live – neighborhood/home/friends/play areas?
- How many relatives or close friends live nearby? Who are they?
- Who provides babysitting for your child when you and your spouse are not available?
- How far is school from where you live?
- If you are awarded custody will your child stay in the same school?
- What sort of extracurricular/enrichment activities do you or your spouse provide for your child?
- Are there any particular programs or activities that you participate in with your child?
- Describe your relationship with your child?
- Describe your spouse’s relationship with your child?
- Describe the ability of you and your spouse to communicate with one another about your child?
- What problems have there been with communication about your child?
- What custody/visitation arrangement do you think would be best for your child?
- Why do you think this arrangement would be in your child’s best interests?
- How do you plan to foster your child’s relationship with your spouse?
- What are 2 positive things you can say about your spouse as a parent?
- What are 2 things you could personally approve on as a parent?
This is just a short list of questions to get started. It is far from exhaustive. It is intended to help you begin the thought process that precedes a successful custody case.
A child custody lawyer should use questions like these to delve deeper into your particular case and draw out more facts that are important and may be key to getting the result you want in court.
Preparing for child custody litigation.
Divorce and family law cases involving custody and visitation are difficult to say the least. There may be nothing to fully prepare your for a litigated case as it is one of the most emotional experiences you can have. Your attorney should encourage negotiation and collaboration to achieve settlement whenever it is possible to do so without compromising the best interests of your children.
No matter what, Please put your children first and keep them out of the disagreements as much as possible. If you are facing a child custody or visitation proceeding. Keep these basic facts in mind when considering what is in the best interests of your children given the uniqueness your family. Hopefully, reflecting on some of these basic pieces of evidence will help you and your co-parent to reach a mutually agreeable decision despite your other differences.
After reading this you are probably thinking a consultation is a good idea. Please read this page if you are also wondering you need a divorce lawyer.
If you are in need of legal advice regarding a child custody or visitation matter or want to review the specific facts in your case with an experienced child custody lawyer, please contact the Moore Law Firm to arrange a consultation.