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Manassas Child Custody Attorney

We Know How Important It Is For You To Have A Relationship With Your Child

At Bristle Schulze, our goal is to foster relationships between parents and their children in any matter involving custody and visitation. Family law attorney Anna Bristle is as caring as she is effective whether she is in negotiations or in court. When you become her client, you know that your interests and those of your child are always her priority.

Contact our office in Manassas at 703-278-2027 for an initial consultation. We represent spouses going through divorce and unwed parents who want to establish an enforceable parenting arrangement.

Child Custody Law In Virginia

We know that you are in the best position to decide what is best for your family, which is why our approach is to help parents reach an agreement out of court when possible. It is often the most cost-effective strategy. Cooperation between parents can also make a difficult situation easier for their children and result in plans that they will be able to implement in the future.

If you and the other parent cannot reach a settlement through mediation or negotiation, a judge will make decisions for you. This may be due to significant differences in opinion or the circumstances, like when domestic abuse is a factor.

Whether approving a parenting plan or determining one, the court will always make decisions based on the best interests of the child as set forth under Virginia child custody laws. Factors that the judge will consider include:

  • The age and mental condition of the child and each parent
  • The relationship that each parent has with the child
  • The ability and willingness of each parent to care for the child
  • The daily or special needs of the child
  • The willingness of the parents to work together
  • Any history of family, alcohol or drug abuse
  • The preference of the child based on his or her age and maturity
  • Any other factors the court deems relevant

Exploring Types Of Custody

Broadly speaking, there are two types of custody, “physical” and “legal.” Each of these terms can be further divided (once again broadly speaking) to “sole” and “joint” and other variations in between.

Legal Custody – Legal custody refers to who can make important decisions about the child. Such as education (where the child would go to school), religion (what religious practices should the child partake in), and medical procedures (what medical procedures the child can undergo).

Joint Legal Custody – The vast majority of the time the court’s in Virginia will order the parents to have joint legal custody and an equal say in the child’s life. In practice this means both parents have to agree in the affirmative for an action to take place. So if one parent wants the child to go to a specific school, and the other parent says no, generally the child cannot go without both parents being in agreement.

Sole Legal Custody – This is exceedingly rare and generally only awarded if some of the following facts are in play:

  • The parties can’t agree on anything
  • The lack of agreement is hurting the child
  • One parent has completely abdicated themselves from responsibility in the child’s life (deferring to the other parent)

Tie-Breaking Legal Custody – While not as rare as sole legal custody this is also pretty rare. Generally what this means is when the parents can’t agree, and after each person being given their chance to give their input, one parent gets the final say. Often in practice this ends up being effectively sole legal custody but word of caution, if the tie-breaking authority is abused a court may modify it back to joint legal custody.

Physical Custody – Physical custody is which parent’s house will the child be spending his or her time at. Sometimes this is called “parenting time” rather than custody. Physical custody can be divided in a near endless amount of ways. While in theory the courts should give each parent approximately equal parenting time with the child that’s generally impractical based on the parent’s addresses.

Joint physical custody – When equal parenting time is possible the courts will generally order a “week-on/week-off” schedule with pick ups and drop offs occuring during the weekend. Sometimes the courts will do a “2-2-3” schedule where one parent always has Mondays and Tuesdays, the other always has Wednesdays and Thursdays, with Friday, Saturday, Sunday rotating.

Primary physical custody – However,  when “equal parenting time” is not possible the court will often assign one parent as the “primary custodial” parent, with the other having visitation time. Visitation time is generally set up as every other weekend and a dinner once a week on a consistent day. The courts will also, if needed, determine a holiday schedule, spring break, summer break etc. The court’s may also award one parent with primary physical custody when the one is far less capable of caring for the minor child.

Sole physical custody – This is when one party has zero rights to see his or her child. This never happens except in cases where the parties agree and even then it might not be awarded. The court never goes this far. Even in cases where parenting is horrible, more often than not the court would award that parent supervised visitation for a few hours once or twice a month. The policy in Virginia is to build families together not actively push them apart.

Have Custody Matters? We Promise To Put Your Children First.

Making the decision to hire a lawyer can be a difficult one. Often times, an individual may not know whether they need a lawyer until they talk to one. Understanding this fact, our firm offers low cost initial consultations for family law matters.

Our schedule is flexible, allowing us to meet you on nights and weekends by appointment. Call us at 703-278-2027 or send us your information, and we will contact you.