Custody cases are tricky. Like divorce, custody is one of those areas of law that varies pretty dramatically from state to state. There’s not a lot of standardization from place to place. Though almost all states have some iteration of the “best interests of the child” factors (here are Virginia’s ten best interests of the child factors), how those factors are interpreted and applied can be really different from state to state. (And, even within Virginia, from court to court – because the judges have a lot of discretion about how standards are applied.)
In so many ways, because what is in a child’s best interest is so subjective, it can be hard to interpret what might happen. But if you’re facing a child custody case in Virginia, you want all the information you can get. You want to learn all you can to prepare for whatever can happen – and to begin to make the best choices possible so you’re in as strong of a position as possible when you walk into the courtroom. Sometimes, the way a court views different things, especially when it comes to custody, really isn’t all that intuitive. It seems like it should be (right? Because you just do what’s best for the child), but it isn’t. There are lots of things that you can do that will undermine your ability to parent in the judge’s eyes, or risk annoying a Guardian ad litem – which is NOT something you want to do!
So, for that reason, Caitlin Walters and I wanted to create a set of free reports on so-called “special issues” in custody cases. Cases where we see lots of women trip and fall, and where we feel like there’s extra advice we could add to the regular, run of the mill custody stuff (like, say “our” kids, not “my” kids) to help moms prepare for their custody cases in the Virginia courts. Together, Caitlin and I wrote four free “special issues” reports. If you fall into any one of these categories, feel free to request the free report (or reports!) you need to prepare for your child custody case.
I certainly hope you don’t fall into this category, but if your child has experienced any kind of physical or sexual abuse, you’re definitely going to want to read this report.
I probably don’t need to tell you, but you’ll need to tread carefully here. These cases are veritable minefields of potential problems.
Judges are a little jaded when it comes to physical and sexual abuse cases, because there are a lot of parents out there who would allege this type of abuse against their child’s other parent in order to keep the other parent away. It makes sense, if you think about it. What is there that you could say about him that would be SO BAD you’d immediately assume that the judge wouldn’t allow him to have any contact with the child?
Physical and sexual abuse spring immediately to mind. Judges have seen a lot of cases where exactly this happens, and it’s all an effort to keep the child’s other parent away. In other cases, though a parent might BELIEVE that there’s abuse happening, without proof, it can look malicious or ill conceived. It can even make you look crazy (like that you keep looking for all of these problems that don’t exist). You’ll want to tread carefully. Build your case appropriately. There are a lot of places where big, big mistakes can happen in these kinds of cases (the kind of mistakes that can cost you your custody case), so you’ll definitely want to request a copy of this free report.
Relocation happens when one parent moves away from the child’s other parent. How far away you can move is typically up to the courts (or you and your child’s father, if you can reach an agreement). I’ve worked on cases where it’s considered relocation to move to the other side of the water (like, from Virginia Beach to Newport News), and certainly plenty of other cases where mom or dad wants to move out of state. If you’re wanting to move (and many moms do, after their relationships don’t work out), you’ll want to request a copy of this free report.
Relocation cases can be really tough (as you can probably imagine, because they keep both parents from begin able to be involved on a day to day basis the way they might like to, or the way they might have been able to had both parents continued to live in the same area), and definitely require very careful planning.The most successful relocation cases are the ones where mom and dad agree to the relocation. It’s possible to win relocation in court, too—but very difficult. For more information about relocation, and what you’ll have to do to win, click here to request a copy of our relocation free report.
Reunification cases happen where one parent has been absent from the child’s life, usually for a long period of time. In these types of cases, it’s not always possible for the deadbeat parent (usually dad!) to jump right back in after being gone for so long. It’s not necessarily in the child’s best interests; it can be upsetting and confusing to have been ignored for so long and then all of a sudden have a parent who wants to be Super Dad.
It’s important to tread carefully, and make sure that the child understands and his needs are being taken into account. Sure, it’s important that dad be able to parent—but not as important as taking the child’s best interests into consideration—especially when he’s to blame for his long absence in the child’s life.In these cases, there are often therapists and other specialists involved to measure the impact on the child. It’s only natural that you’d want to protect your child from the potential impact that a change like this might have on him, and, if you’re facing a case like this, you’ll definitely want to request a copy of our reunification free report.
Most of the time, I tell moms that they likely won’t lose custody. That, though these things go to court sometimes when parents can’t agree, in most cases, a good mom won’t just randomly lose custody. It’s very rarely a win/lose type proposition.
But…sometimes it is. It IS possible to lose custody, and there are definitely things you can do and choices you can make that will ensure that you’ll lose custody—good mom or not.
You’ve got to tread carefully, and make good decisions. You have to remember that the Guardian ad litem is not your friend, and your child’s father is not your enemy (well, he may be, but that’s not how you want to approach your custody case).To make sure you don’t make any accidental missteps, request our free report, “How Virginia Moms LOSE Custody”.
It’s chock full of information you’ll be glad you had. Custody cases aren’t a walk in the park, but if you’re armed with the information you need, you’ll find yourself in a much better position. Don’t assume you know it all; ask the questions you need to get the answers you have to have BEFORE you talk to the Guardian ad litem or face the judge.
For more information, or to request one of these (or any of our other) divorce or custody reports, click here or give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.