Child Custody and Support

Child CustodyWe represent both divorcing parents and unmarried parents in cases that involve your relationship with your children: child custody disputes, child support modification proceedings, and the resolution of issues that can affect your visitation rights. We also serve the needs of clients in adoptions, name changes, and paternity matters.

Virginia divorce law requires that child custody disputes be resolved according to the best interests of the child or children involved, and our statute on the matter lists a number of factors that the court must consider in awarding primary physical custody to one parent or the other. Interestingly, one important factor is the relative willingness of each parent to allow the other parent access to the child. In other words, the more you can demonstrate your understanding of the importance of each parent’s relationship with your child, the more seriously the judge will regard you as a primary custodial parent.

Visitation:  This refers to the noncustodial parent’s right to spend time with the child on a regular basis. In circumstances where that parent has a history of such conduct as domestic violence or drug abuse, the other parent can request that visitation be supervised or subject to other restrictions. Our lawyers can advise you regardless of which side of this issue describes your situation. We also help resolve the logistical difficulties of visitation in military divorce cases.

Paternity:   In the classic paternity case, the mother petitions for proof of an unmarried father’s paternity of her child in order to obtain an enforceable right to child support. An order of paternity, however, does not carry with it any recognition of the father’s right to regular access or shared custody of the child as a matter of law. In order to obtain a secure right to maintain a regular relationship with his child, the father must obtain a separate order for visitation or custody from a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge.

Child Support:   The Virginia Child Support Guidelines provide a fairly simple formula to determine the payment obligations of the noncustodial parent. The income of both parents is taken into account, and the noncustodial parent’s payment is reduced proportionally if the child spends more than a quarter of the year overnight in that parent’s home. Child support can also be adjusted upward or downward to account for hardships, financial responsibilities for other children, or economically significant special needs of the child. In paternity cases, an unmarried father will not receive credit for overnight visits without a visitation or joint physical custody order in place.

Adoption:   Our lawyers can assist you and your family with stepparent adoptions, agency adoptions, international adoptions, name changes, and even adult adoptions. Adoption work can represent the most rewarding work a family law attorney can perform — there are no winners and losers, but everybody’s happy.