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What is considered the best interest of the child?

In Virginia, there are several factors used to determine if a custody or visitation decision is in the best interests of a child. The first factor that is taken into account is the age of the child and the changing needs of the child as it gets older. The current physical and mental needs of the child are also taken into consideration when determining if an action is in his or her best interests.

The mental and physical condition of any parent who may visit or have custody of a child will be reviewed. Furthermore, the depth and quality of any relationship that exists between a parent and child will be examined. If a parent hasn't had a good or any relationship with a child in the past, a judge may consider whether that may change in the future.

Depending on the age and mental capacity of the child, the child may express a preference for who he or she wants to have contact with. However, this may be overruled if there is any history of sexual or physical abuse by one or both parents. In addition to the factors already listed, a judge may use any other factors that may be relevant to determining what is in the best interest of a child.

Parents who wish to have contact with their children may need to prove that it is in the best interest of the child. A family law attorney may be able to establish that a parent can provide a stable and safe environment for that child. In some cases, limited custody or visitation rights may be granted with the hopes of offering unlimited visitation or custody in the future.

Source: Code of Virginia, "§ 20-124.3. Best interests of the child; visitation.", November 10, 2014

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