Child Custody Attorneys in Charleston, WV
West Virginia Custody Laws
In the State of West Virginia, parents are allowed to reach custody and parenting plan agreements on their own. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case and the courts have to be brought in to determine the best interest of the child. Child custody arrangements don’t only determine the child’s living situation but will also consider how the child will be financially and emotionally cared for, and who can provide a stable environment for the child following the divorce or separation. And, if the child is old enough to make a sound decision, the court will also hear the wishes of the child.
Whether you are going through a divorce, separation, or renegotiating an existing arrangement, dealing with child custody issues can be challenging. Family law issues are always challenging, but when children are involved, it can be even more difficult. Sometimes parents are able to negotiate parenting plans amongst themselves, but in many cases, court interference is necessary in order to find an arrangement both parties are happy with. If you are in need of legal help, our child custody attorneys can work with you to obtain the child custody arrangement you need.
At Hardy Pence PLLC, our experienced divorce lawyer can help you establish a custody arrangement that works for you, your child, and the other party. We are passionate about helping out clients achieve the legal goals they’re after. Throughout the legal process, our child custody lawyers in Charleston, WV can stand by your side, providing you with one-on-one attention and addressing any concerns or questions regarding your child custody case.
If you are going through a child custody dispute, get started on your case by contacting us online or calling (304) 345-7250 to schedule a consultation with our child custody lawyers in Charleston today!
What Factors Determine Child Custody in West Virginia?
In West Virginia, child custody orders are always focused on achieving what is in the best interest of the child. If left to the court, a judge will consider whether or not joint custody is doable. Joint custody is usually the more favorable option, though in cases where one parent is deemed dangerous, negligent, or otherwise unqualified to care for the child, the court may grant sole custody to the other parent. Even in these cases, the parent without custody is likely to receive visitation rights on a regular basis, though these visits may require court supervision.
The court will consider the following factors before determining a WV child custody arrangement:
- The child’s relationship with either parent
- The child’s preference, if he or she is old enough to have a say
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child
- Each parent’s home environment
- Each parent’s employment status
- Each parent’s income
- The child’s safety, health, and welfare
- Who is the child’s primary caregiver (for example, a stay-at-home parent)
- The physical and mental health of either parent
- Any evidence of abuse or domestic violence
What Makes a Parent Unfit in West Virginia?
There must be a strong reason to declare a parent unfit for custody in West Virginia. Some of the factors could include:
- If the parent sets age-appropriate limits for the child – “age-appropriate” limits might seem subjective, but an example of not setting an age-appropriate limit is allowing a very young child watch R-rated movies regularly.
- If the parent responds to the child’s needs
- If the parent cares for the child’s welfare
- How the parent deals with conflict
- If there is any history of child abuse
- If there is any history of domestic violence
- If there is any history of substance abuse
- If there is any history of mental illness
- What the parent’s social environment is like
- How the child feels toward the parent
West Virginia Parenting Plan
The custody courts in West Virginia allow divorcing parents to create a detailed parenting plan, however, if they cannot come to an agreement, a hearing will be arranged to decide contested custody issues. The court’s main concern is to create an arrangement that is in the child’s or children’s best interests.
If a court awards physical custody to a parent and then “reasonable” visitation to the other, then the parent with custody generally gets to decide what is considered “reasonable”. In some cases, disputes arise over little visitation time or inconvenience. That is why it is important to make the parenting plan as detailed as possible.
Additionally, if you have custody rights over your child, then you should be informed where you child is during visitation with the other parent. You also have the right to know who is babysitting the child when the other parent is gone.
What is “Reasonable Visitation”?
What is considered to be “reasonable visitation” varies depending on the circumstances of the case and the state. When the court awards “reasonable visitation” the parents must decide what is appropriate for schedules and visits. The custody order does not specify each parents’ time with the child or children, so it is essential that the parenting plan is detailed to prevent disputes. Consider the length of time per visit, important dates, and the frequency of visitations.
What Does Shared Custody Look Like?
The court will, more likely, choose to grant shared custody between parents if both are deemed capable. Under a basic shared parenting arrangement, one parent will have the child overnight for at least 65% of the year, meaning the custody favors one parent. Another option, extended shared parenting, will by much closer to a 50/50 arrangement, where each parent has the child overnight for roughly half of the year. In either situation, both parents are expected to financially contribute to the welfare of the child. This expectation is usually in addition to any court-ordered child support payments.
After the judge has decided on a custody arrangement, each parent is obligated to follow the designated plan unless it is modified. If both parents can agree upon an alternative, or a change, to the court-ordered plan, they may seek to have it legally modified. They may also pursue a modification if situations have drastically changed, such as a job loss, relocation, or anything else that may impact the current custody arrangement.
WV Child custody cases can be complex, especially when it comes to determining what is in the child’s best interest. This can be extremely subjective, which is why you need a seasoned attorney on your side.