Virginia Beach Child Custody/Visitation/Parenting Time/Support Attorneys
One of the most difficult decisions that couples face when they are going through the divorce process is determining the details of child custody, visitation, alimony, and child support. Couples often disagree about how they will share parenting time after the divorce, who has the authority to make major decisions for their minor children in the future, what the visitation schedule will look like, and who will pay support. In some cases, these issues can be ironed out between two spouses who have agreed to the terms of a no-fault, uncontested divorce. In other instances, when two parents cannot agree on issues related to child custody, visitation, and support, they may have to battle it out in court.
Whether you and your spouse are in agreement on the terms of your separation or are disputing certain issues, having an experienced Virginia Beach family law attorney to help you resolve conflict and protect your rights can give you peace of mind and make the process much less stressful. At Pincus Goodman, P.C., our Virginia Beach divorce attorneys have the skills and resources to guide you through every step of the divorce process, help you negotiate solutions that work to your benefit, and ultimately seek a favorable outcome for your case. Call us today at (757) 301-9634 for a confidential consultation.
Types of Child Custody in Virginia Beach
There are two main types of custody in Virginia: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s authority to make decisions for their child, including decisions about their education, healthcare, religion, and so on. Physical custody refers to the parent(s) the child lives with.
If the child’s parents have an amicable relationship and have shown that they can cooperate, courts will often award them joint custody so that the child can spend quality time with both their parents. Joint custody can refer to joint legal custody, in which both parents have decision-making authority over their child, even if one of them moves away. It can also refer to joint physical custody.
Joint physical custody means that the child will reside with both of their parents, although it does not necessarily mean that the child will split their time evenly between their parents’ homes. For example, in some joint custody arrangements, a child will spend one week with one parent, and the next week with the other, repeating this pattern all year long. In other cases, one parent may get their child during the week while the other gets them on the weekend.
Sole custody (either physical, legal, or both) means that only one of the parents has custody of the child. Sometimes, courts will award sole physical custody to one parent but award legal custody to both. In this type of arrangement, the non-custodial parent still has decision-making power and must collaborate and consult with the other parent when a decision needs to be made. Although it is not necessarily uncommon for one parent to be awarded sole physical custody, it is unusual for a judge to award sole legal custody to one parent.
The easiest way for two parents to determine the details of their child’s custody is to collaborate on an arrangement together. If they can agree on a satisfactory arrangement, there will be no need for the court to decide on their behalf. However, if two parents cannot agree on a child custody arrangement, then they might have to turn to a judge to settle the issue.
Judges sometimes order parents to participate in mediation before appearing in court for a custody hearing. A mediator facilitates the discussion, but the parents have the deciding voice on whether or not the proposed arrangement is agreeable. If two parents still can’t agree during mediation, then a judge will resolve the custody dispute on their behalf.
When determining child custody, the courts always consider the child’s best interests first (and are required to do so by law). Other factors the judge may consider include the child’s age, each parent’s age and health, each parent’s level of involvement in their child’s life, and in some cases, the child’s preference (usually only if they are over a certain age).
If you are struggling to agree on a suitable custody arrangement with your spouse in Virginia Beach, our divorce attorneys can help you figure out a solution while protecting your parenting rights. We aim to save you time and money by helping you avoid costly divorce litigation, but we are also equipped to provide you with aggressive representation in court if necessary.
In custody arrangements where one parent has sole physical custody, a visitation schedule will typically be arranged to allow the non-custodial parent to regularly spend time with their child. This is required by law (Virginia Code § 20-124.2) unless it is deemed inappropriate by the court. Visitation is also referred to as “parenting time.”
Visitation schedules are based on the family’s circumstances and numerous other factors. Under some visitation schedules, a child will visit the non-custodial parent every other weekend. In others, the child might stay with the non-custodial parent on holidays or school breaks (like summer break).
If you can collaborate with your spouse and create an arrangement that suits both your schedules, you won’t need to litigate the issue in court. However, if you and your spouse cannot agree to a visitation schedule, then a judge will need to create a schedule for you.
Although it is rare, supervised visitation does exist. Under most arrangements, children are able to visit the non-custodial parent without supervision, but if a judge decides that allowing a child to visit their other parent unsupervised could be harmful to the child’s physical or mental wellbeing, then visits might be required to be supervised by a third-party. Eventually, if the non-custodial parent can demonstrate that they won’t endanger the child, they could be awarded unsupervised visitation.
If you need help creating a visitation schedule or cannot agree on an arrangement with your spouse, contact Pincus Goodman, P.C., to discuss the situation with one of our Virginia Beach divorce attorneys. We will help you iron out any issues that have arisen between parties and fight for a fair visitation schedule before a judge if we need to.
Child and Spousal Support
Determining spousal support and child support can be one of the most contentious issues you have to work out in your separation agreement.
When it is necessary, courts will award spousal support (alimony) to one of the two spouses. When determining the payment amount for spousal support, the court will consider a variety of factors, including each spouse’s financial situation and income, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, mental and physical health of both spouses (as well as their respective ages), property owned by both parties, and whether or not one of the spouses needs to stay home to properly care for and support their child.
Spousal support is typically paid either in regular payments or as a lump sum. Spousal support will go on for as long as the court specifies or for a period agreed upon by the couple agrees, though if one of the spouses passes away or remarries, alimony obligations will end. Either party can also request a modification of spousal support at any time. For instance, if the payor (the spouse who pays alimony) loses their job or has a sudden change of financial circumstances, they can petition the court to decrease their spousal support amount or terminate it altogether.
Child support in Virginia can be determined in multiple ways. On one hand, the parent who has physical custody of the child can file a petition with the local court to request child support. The non-custodial parent will be served with a summons, and both parties will appear for a hearing, at which time a judge will issue a child support order. The payor may owe back support for the period of time between the filing and the hearing.
However, child support can also be settled through the DCSE (Division of Child Support Enforcement). The custodial parent must fill out and submit an application, which you can find here. An agent will then review the application and request financial information from both parties. They will then use this information to determine the appropriate amount of child support. You can read more about the factors that both the courts and the DCSE consider when determining child support.
If you need help drafting or modifying a support arrangement in Virginia Beach, don’t hesitate to reach out to Pincus Goodman, P.C., for help. If you feel you aren’t getting a fair deal and cannot reach a compromise with your spouse, we can negotiate with your spouse’s attorney to reach a settlement. If negotiations fail, we won’t hesitate to bring your case before a judge.
Contact a Virginia Beach Family Law Attorney Today
At Pincus Goodman, P.C., we understand how challenging it can be to hammer out child custody and visitation arrangements, not to mention child and spousal support. It can be even more difficult and frustrating if you and your spouse cannot negotiate an arrangement without court intervention.
We will help you understand the factors considered when determining custody, visitation, and support and safeguard your rights and finances. Contact our Virginia Beach family law attorneys for a consultation at (757) 301-9634.