custody & Visitation

Custody Arrangements

Spousal Support, Annulment, Separation Agreement, Prenuptial AgreementMost people don’t understand what custody really means or what joint custody really means.

Custody means the power to make decisions on behalf of minor children. That can either be in a sole custody context where only one party makes all the decisions or it can be a joint decision making process between both parents. Many of the courts prefer a joint custody arrangement because they believe that regardless of the fact that the parents are separated, if both parents are involved it works out to the benefit of the children. If in fact the parents are estranged or one parent is antagonistic towards the other parent then joint custody unfortunately can be used as a tool to torment the other parent over issues concerning the children which, of course, would not be in the best interest of the children. This is the first thing that Mr. Kaydouh will discuss with you, as to how likely it is for both parents to be able to resolve issues concerning the children in an amicable manner. If it can be done in a peaceful way in which both parents have respect for each other, then that would be a good thing. If it cannot be done in that manner, then he will discuss with you the option of sole custody.

Although you may have joint custody, it does not necessarily mean that the children are going to be living at one parent’s residence. There is a doctrine called shared custody wherein the days of the week are divided where each parent has the child/children for a certain time during the week and alternates on the weekends. The courts are preferring this approach because the child/children have access to both parents. This usually works out if both parents are in close geographic proximity to each other so that it would not create a wear and tear on the children going back and forth long distances to each parents home. Again, every situation is different, and as to what is the best solution for you and your children, you need to go over all of the possible scenarios with Mr. Kaydouh so that he can explain them to you so that you may make the best possible decision for your children.

Usually when a court gives one parent sole custody and the other either no visitation or restricted visitation or supervised visitation, it would be very detrimental to the children and the court with great reluctance will in fact grant one parent sole custody and the other supervised visitation or no visitation at all if there is substantial evidence that the children may be endangered or not taken care of by the non-custodial parent who may have certain impairments. The grounds that the court usually looks at, among others, is mental illness and substance abuse and neglect.

Sometimes it may be necessary to hire an expert to interview the children and to evaluate both parents for a determination of which parent should have custody. Usually this is accomplished by both parties agreeing to have an independent psychologist perform this evaluation and that usually saves a lot of time and cost if the parties cannot make a determination between themselves.

International Issues In Child Custody Disputes

With Virginia being so close to an international airport plus the population of Virginia becoming so diverse that many people have married individuals from foreign countries where those individuals have substantial family ties to their home country, it is becoming more and more a real issue in domestic relation cases where the parent with ties outside the United States will either threaten or actually move back to their home country, whether it be Europe, Asia or the Middle East. Once a child has been removed to these other countries it constitutes a major obstacle in getting that child back. There are various treaties involved, such as the Hague Convention. If in fact the depository country is a member of the Hague Convention, there is a strong possibility that orders from our courts will be obeyed in that country. However, getting a former spouse or spouse who has departed from the United States to another country to obey the order of their home country where they are now residing in order to bring the child back can constitute a major problem if the party refuses to cooperate.

Visitation

Again shared custody and visitation can take many different forms. If one party has custody of the children or if it is joint custody and the children’s primary physical residence is with one parent, then the other parent will have visitation. That can be as liberal as the parties can agree or it can be as restrictive as the parties want or it can be determined by a judge as can the custody. There is no fixed formula or determination as to what custody or visitation should be. Rather the guiding point should be what is in the best interest of the parties’ child/children.

Child Relocation From Virginia

This issue comes up more and more since residents of Virginia seem to be more mobile than most and are relocating for numerous reasons. The key here is that a court would permit a parent residing in Virginia to relocate to another state provided that it is the child’s best interest. Now that does not mean that it is in the parent’s best interest but rather what is in the best interest of the child. There are many factors that come into play and Mr. Kaydouh has substantial experience in litigating these issues. Generally the more contacts the child has in Virginia the stronger the case for the parent who opposes the relocation to keep the child within the State of Virginia. Should the court find that it is in the child’s best interest to remain in Virginia, the custody would probably be transferred to the parent remaining in Virginia.

Child Abduction By A Parent

Unfortunately, this is happening more and more where one parent decides that they are going to go to another state or foreign country and takes the parties’ child/children with them. An attempt can be made to stop this by going to court to seek emergency injunctive relief prohibiting the parent from removing the child/children from the area. Following that, there would be a full hearing as to the custody of the child/children and any visitation issues that arise at that time. No one should remove a child from the geographic area where the child has been living without an agreement from the other parent in writing or a court order.

Grandparents' Rights Concerning Minor Children

Many grandparents today are in fact substitute parents for their grandchildren. Grandparents do have rights as recognized by the Code of Virginia in visiting their grandchildren and the courts recognize this more and more and there are various issues and factual situations which would be explained to you by Mr. Kaydouh should the issue arise. Children do benefit from a strong and loving relationship with their grandparents and the courts understand that.

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