The breakdown of a relationship with children involved often necessitates the court’s involvement. When this occurs, Virginia courts must decide about both legal and physical custody.
Legal custody is the right to make major life decisions for a child. This includes decisions relating to health care, education, and religious practices. Separate from legal custody, physical custody concerns where the children will live and spend their time.
Whenever possible, courts aim to preserve both parents’ physical and legal custody. Only in extreme circumstances where shared custody is clearly not in the best interest of a child will courts terminate those parental rights.
A recent case highlights just how difficult it is to obtain full legal custody.
In the case, a mother struggling to co-parent with her child’s father sought an amendment to their shared custody order. To obtain full legal custody, she needed to prove that there had been a material change in circumstances since the last custody award was put in place and that making the change would be in her daughter’s best interest.
The mother brought a wide swath of arguments to the court to make her case, but both the trial court and the reviewing court rejected her arguments.
For example, the mother argued that the daughter’s recent struggles in school and with sleep and mental health constituted material changes in circumstances. But the court disagreed, arguing that these problems were similar to the health problems the daughter had already been experiencing at the time when the last custody award was made.
The mother also tried to demonstrate a material change in circumstances by showing the father’s lack of involvement and, at times, alleged obstruction in the child’s health care and education. But the court also disagreed with the mother on this point, pointing to the fact that the daughter was continuing to receive medical care and special education, for example.
Therefore, despite the child’s worsening health and academics, the custody order was left unchanged.
When attempting to change a custody award, the parent seeking the change has a high hill to climb. If you believe that it is in your child’s best interest for you to obtain full legal custody, then you will need a family law firm with a track record for success in this area.
Speak with a Virginia Family Lawyer Today
If you are involved in a Virginia child custody dispute, the stakes could not be higher. The attorneys at Robinson Law, PLLC have earned a reputation as aggressive advocates to protect the best interest of children throughout Northern Virginia. Our lawyers have over five decades of combined experience in navigating complex family law matters in the state. At Robinson Law, we are sensitive to the emotional toll involvement in a family law case can have. For this reason, we approach each client with the compassion and care needed to ensure that the legal portion of this process is as pain-free as possible. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our attorneys, call 888-259-9787 now.