Legal Information: Virginia


December 31, 2021

How will a judge make a decision about custody?

A judge will make a decision about custody based on what s/he thinks is in your child’s best interest.1 The judge will look at any factor that s/he thinks is important in making this decision. Some of the things a judge will look at include:

  • the age and physical and mental condition of the child;
  • the age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
  • the relationship existing between each parent and each child, and the ability of each parent to meet the emotional and physical needs of the child;
  • the needs of the child, including other important relationships in the child’s life such as siblings, friends and other family relatives;
  • the role that each parent has played in the child’s life, and the role each parent will play in the future;
  • the likelihood that a parent will actively support the child’s relationship with the other parent, which includes looking at whether a parent has denied the other parent access to the child in the past, without good reason for doing so;
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child;
  • the ability of each parent to cooperate with the other parent in resolving disputes regarding matters that affect the child;.
  • the preference of the child, if the child is old enough to understand and express such a preference;
    • Note: The court will consider any likelihood of improper influence by one or both parents on the child’s decision; and
  • any other factor the court feels is necessary and proper in order to make a decision about custody.2

1 Va. Code § 20-124.2(B)
2 See Brown v. Burch, 519 S.E.2d 403, 408 (Va. App. 1999); Va. Code § 20-124.3

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