How the child's best interests factor into child custody cases

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Parents often want what is best for their children. However, two parents might not agree on what "best" is. In cases where the parents are no longer together, one thing that must be considered is who should have custody of the couple's children. While in some cases, custody can be split, in others, one parent will have primary custody and the other will get visitation. If parents cannot decide which one of them is best suited to have primary custody over the children, a Virginia court will have to decide.

When the courts decide custody issues, they need to make the determination based on the "best interests of the child." While many have likely seen this phrase, you may be left wondering what exactly it means.

Under section 20-124.3 of the Virginia code, the court can look at 10 factors to determine the best interest of the child. These factors include external conditions, such as the age and physical condition of the child, and the physical and mental condition of each parent. Another factor is the relationship between the child and each parent. The relationship between the child and others -- including siblings and extended family members - may also be considered.

Additionally, the court will look at which parent is more likely to support the child's relationship with the other parent, and each parent's interest in retaining a relationship with the child. The child's preference, any history of abuse and any other factor the court deems necessary may also be considered as the court makes its decision.

Since these factors can be complicated and vary depending on the facts in each case, this post cannot provide specific legal advice. A Virginia family law attorney, however, can give more specifics about a particular case.

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