What a parent needs to show during a custody hearing

Posted by Juan D. Bustamante

As with most legal matters relating to children in Virginia, the central question for the court will always be what is “in the best interest of the child?”

When preparing for a custody hearing, even the most well-intentioned petitioners may face some pushback from Virginia courts when faced against factors found in Virginia Code Section 20-124.3, which judges MUST carefully consider before awarding custody to any one parent or any other qualified individual with legitimate interests.

Chapter 6.1 of the Virginia Code defines legal terms, procedures, and factors that the Courts will use as a rubric to scrutinize the petitioning party’s request for custody. A petitioning parent must be prepared to convincingly demonstrate why the following factors fall in his or her favor:

  • The age and physical and mental condition of the child including their changing developmental needs;
  • the age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
  • the relationship existing between each parent and each child, including each parent’s ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of the child;
  • 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;
  • the role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child, which may include beyond attaining the age of majority;
  • 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;
  • the parent’s willingness and cooperation in resolving matters affecting the child;
  • any history of family abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse; or an act of violence, force, or threat that occurred no earlier than 10 years prior to the date a petition is filed; and
  • any other such factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.

Custody cases can be tricky, full of procedural hurdles, evidentiary dilemmas, and rife with emotion that an experienced attorney can help client to navigate. There is no one size fits all approach, so our attorneys can tailor fit the best arguments and mitigate any unfavorable factors in your quest to petition for custody.

If you or someone you know is looking to petition for child custody or child custody modification, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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