When it comes to getting full legal or physical custody of a child in Virginia, a parent must undergo a legal process whereby the courts will determine, through a number of factors, what is in the best interest of the child.
How to Get Full Custody of a Child in Virginia
Petition for Custody
To begin, a parent must file a Petition for Custody with the Court Services Unit of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to begin the process of getting full custody of a child in Virginia. This Petition is generally filed in the jurisdiction in which the parent and child have resided for at least six consecutive months.
A parent seeking full custody must file a Petition for Custody. This petition will include a number of factors the judge will take into consideration found in the Code of Virginia § 20-124.3. Best interests of the child; visitation.
File an Affidavit
In addition, the filing for custody is subject to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act and requires an affidavit to be filed along with the Petition for Custody. All submitted documents must be signed in the presence of a notary public or court official, or by the retained attorney, and notice of filing must be given to the other parent.
File a Motion to Amend
If a court order is already in place for custody, the parent is required to file a Motion to Amend or Review Order in the same court that issued the original order for custody. Then the court will schedule an initial hearing during which the judge may order a mandatory mediation, psychological evaluation of both parents, a court-appointed attorney for the child, or a temporary custody order.
If parents cannot reach a custody agreement, the case will go to trial on the motion or petition request, generally one to three months following the initial hearing. This is where the judge will decide final custody after reviewing a long list of factors.
- ll schedule an initial hearing during which the judge may order a mandatory mediation, psychological evaluation of both parents, a court-appointed attorney for the child, or a temporary custody order.
- If parents cannot reach a custody agreement, the case will go to trial on the motion or petition request, generally one to three months following the initial hearing. This is where the judge will decide final custody after reviewing a long list of factors.
- If you are awarded sole or full custody of a child in Virginia, the courts may also limit you from relocating to another state, especially if the other parent convinces the court that the move will inhibit visitation.
Full custody, or sole custody, is generally only awarded when one parent presents an overwhelming case in their favor, and it is in the best interest of the child.
In addition to parents, anyone with a “legitimate interest” in the child may also file to get full custody in Virginia. This can include grandparents, stepparents, or other blood relatives or family members, or anyone the court decides has a legitimate interest. Those convicted of sexual conduct with a child may not seek custody, and those with violent crime records may be prevented from obtaining custody.
Related: How to Get Sole Custody of a Child in Virginia
Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody of a Child
Custody is defined as the parent who has the legal responsibility for taking care of a child younger than 18. Custody can be issued as joint custody or sole custody.
In joint custody, both parents share the responsibility of making the major decisions that affect their child’s life. This includes decisions about medical care, education and religion. In joint legal custody, both parents are responsible for the care and control of the child and make joint decisions, even if the child only lives with one parent. In joint physical custody, the same rights pertain, however, the child lives with each parent for periods of time.
When the court awards a parent sole custody, that parent is responsible for all major daily decisions in that child’s life, and the child will live with that parent. The other parent may have visitation rights unless he or she is deemed unfit and his/her parental rights are terminated.
Contact Pond Law Group in Front Royal, VA
Since getting full custody of a child in Virginia can be a complicated process, we recommend that you engage a family law attorney with experience in Virginia child custody – like Pond Law Group.
If you have questions about seeking full custody, we’ll be glad to answer them.