Section 20-124.3 The Virginia Code lists a number of factors that the judge is required by law to consider in deciding what is in the child’s best interests. They are:
1. The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child’s changing developmental needs;
2. The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
3. The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child;
4. The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child, including but not limited to siblings, peers and extended family members;
5. The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;
6. The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;
7. The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;
8. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference;
9. Any history of family abuse as that term is defined in § 16.1-228 or sexual abuse. If the court finds such a history, the court may disregard the factors in subdivision 6; and
10. Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.
Other factors commonly considered:
- The parent with whom the child is currently living at the time of the hearing has an advantage. Similarly, the parent who has put in the most time caring for the child has an advantage.
- The parent who gets the home where the children have been living has an advantage. The parent who can offer the better living quarters has an advantage, particularly if each child can have a room of their own. The quality of the neighborhood where the parent is living can be an important consideration as well, particularly if one parent lives in a bad area.
- The parent who is best able to reconcile the demands of working and caring for the children has an advantage. It is a definite negative if a parent will have to leave the child at home unsupervised while the parent is working.
- New relationships can affect the balance between two contending parents. Particularly a new live-in significant other, promiscuity that the children will notice, and overt sexual behavior in their presence are big negatives.
- A caring personality and a good heart go a long way with a judge if these qualities can be brought out in the courtroom. A mature attitude about letting the child continue to have a positive relationship with the other spouse, unselfishness, and putting the child’s concerns first are also a major plus.
Child custody cases are among the most difficult. If your child custody case is in Hampton, Newport News, York-Poquoson, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach or Suffolk, we can help you to present the strongest possible case for you to have custody of your child.