I frequently receive phone calls from a parent who is struggling with the other parent of their child or children over custody and visitation. If you are trying to determine if you need to seek custody of your child or children, consider these factors first.
1) Who has been the primary caregiver for the child? The Court will normally give primary custody to the parent who has been the most involved with the child on a day-to-day basis. This is more than whether one parent has been home with the child. The Court will also consider things like who has taken the child to doctor appointments and who has gone to parent/teacher conferences.
2) Who has a support network in place? This could be family member support or daycare arrangements. The Court will want to have as much stability for the child as possible so they will consider if one parent has extended family in the area or has the child in daycare.
3) What are the parents work schedules? There is no way around the fact that here in Virginia we live in a military area. The courts are well aware of the deployment schedules that military members face. The courts want stability for the child and they want to be sure that a military parent has a plan for deployments. The court will also consider if one parent is likely to be moved soon or is in a career that requires frequent travel.
4) How old is the child and what sex are they? While custody decisions are gender-neutral, meaning that either parent can be awarded custody, the court will consider the age of the child and the child's gender. A teenage boy may be better off with his father and a teenage or preteen girl may need to be with her mother.
5) What is the parent's attitude towards the other parent? This may be one of the biggest factors. The courts want to make sure that both parents have an opportunity to be involved in the child's life. If one parent is hostile to the other parent and has made it difficult for that parent to have a relationship with the child, the court may feel it is better for the child to live with the other parent.
In every situation, the court will always be focused on what is best for the child. That should also be your focus.
If you are involved in a dispute over the custody of a minor child, I can help. Contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-276-6555 to schedule a meeting with me to discuss your case.