Domestic abuse is an epidemic across Virginia and the rest of the United States, and it often plays a role in family law proceedings. Abuse is a leading factor that leads to a person seeking divorce and/or custody of a child, and Virginia courts will take domestic abuse into account in determining custody matters. You should speak to an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options for dealing with abuse – including obtaining a protective order – but here are a few things to keep in mind regarding how abuse will affect a Virginia custody proceeding.
How Abuse Factors Into a Virginia Custody Determination
Judges in Virginia custody proceedings will make their decisions regarding both legal custody (who will have the right to make important decisions regarding the child’s education, health care, etc.) and physical custody (who will have the right/obligation to physically care for the child) based on the best interests of the child. Both legal custody and physical custody can be awarded as sole custody to one parent or as joint custody to both parents.
There are a number of factors that judges examine in determining whether the best interests of the child support joint custody or sole custody to one parent. These include, among other factors:
- the needs of the child
- the willingness and ability of each parent to provide for those needs
- the existing relationship between each parent and the child
- the propensity of each parent to allow ongoing contact between the child and the other parent, and
- “any history of family abuse”
Importantly, if the court is convinced that family abuse is, or has been occurring – whether directed at the child or another family member – the court may take that into consideration if there is evidence that a non-abusive parent has attempted to cut off contact with the child and the abusive parent.
What Constitutes “Abuse” in a Virginia Family Law Proceeding
Elsewhere in the Virginia code, family abuse is defined to include, among other things:
- Physical or mental injury intentionally or carelessly inflicted on a child
- The threat of physical or mental injury
- Intentionally or carelessly creating a risk of death, disfigurement, or impairment of bodily or mental functions
- Abandonment of a child
- Committing or allowing sexual abuse of the child to occur
- Knowingly leaving the child with a non-family member who is on a sex offender registry for crimes against minors
- Placing the child in the care of a person who creates one of the above risks
Why Working With a Lawyer Can Help
Judges overseeing custody proceedings want to know about any history of abuse that is relevant to their determinations, and working with an experienced Virginia family law attorney can help you to collect and present any history of abuse in a compelling and procedurally correct manner to the judge.
Other parties in family law matters will frequently deny or lie about matters of abuse, or attempt to threaten or intimidate victims. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help you to stand up to such tactics and work towards a positive resolution for you and your family, including through obtaining a protective order.
Schedule a Consultation With a Virginia Family Law Attorney Today
At Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC in Fredericksburg, we will guide through all of your questions regarding all aspects of custody and help you work towards a favorable outcome in your family law matter. To schedule a consultation with one of our Virginia family law attorneys, contact Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC at 540.642.1766.