Anyone who has endured a painful custody and visitation battle has certainly heard a reference or two about the “best interests of the child.” However, many people do not know what that phrase means. The “best interests of the child” refers to the well being of the minor child involved in the custody or visitation dispute. In a contentious custody or visitation case, the Court is not necessarily concerned with the desires or wishes of each individual parent, rather the Court’s main focus is the child. The Court wants to know what is best for the kid. Therefore, the Court will receive evidence and make its final decision based solely on which placement it believes will be the BEST FOR THE CHILD. So, how does the Court determine who or what serves the “best interests of the child?”
The Best Interests of the Child Factors
The Judge hearing a custody and visitation matter will consider the factors set forth in Section 20-124.2 of the Code of Virginia to determine which placement or parent will best serve the best interests of the minor child.
Here is a list of the factors the Court must consider:
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.
Why should you care about the factors?
The factors set forth above provide the foundation for the Court’s decision in a custody or visitation case. It is essential in a custody or visitation case that a parent show the Court it can meet each and every individual factor. It is far too common for parents to mistakenly believe that financial security or personal success are the most important factor for the Court to consider. However, as you can see from the list above, the Court concerns itself with many factors and often places a strong emphasis on #6: the parent’s ability to facilitate the relationship between the minor child and the other parent. Because the stakes are high, the factors are comprehensive, and the rules of evidence create barriers to presenting your custody or visitation case, you should consult with an attorney.
Can the attorneys at Goff Voltin, PLLC help?
Yes! The attorneys at Goff Voltin, PLLC have handled numerous custody and visitation cases in Newport News, Williamsburg, York County, Hampton, and throughout Hampton Roads. Additionally, the attorneys at Goff Voltin, PLLC have also represented children as a guardian ad litem in custody and visitation matters. With this experience, our attorneys are well equipped to be able to help you present your best case. Call us today for a free consultation so we can discuss your situation in further detail.