If you are considering divorce in Virginia and have kids, you will want to know how to prepare for the child custody portion of your divorce case. Keep in mind that, like other states, family law courts determine child custody is determined by the best interests of the child. This gives the judge broad discretion, but there are things that you can do to build your child custody case now.
Stability and safety
One of the most important factors that Virginia courts consider in child custody determinations is the stability and safety of each parent’s home and the environment within that home. Establish a consistent and nurturing routine. Make sure you have a schedule that includes regular meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks), an established bedtime with carve outs for homework and activities. Document as much of this as possible or have some way to substantiate it.
Avoid exposing your child to anything that is or could be perceived as harmful. This includes domestic violence, criminal activity, substance abuse, etc. And, if you have these concerns about your soon-to-be ex-spouse, document it, and report it to the police.
Know your living arrangements
Plan out your future living arrangements now, or at least figure out your options. You do not want to go to court transient. Remember, you do not have to leave the family home, even if your spouse serves you with divorce papers. Unless a judge tells you otherwise, you still own that home too.
Cooperation, but documentation
Another factor that can help your case is your ability to cooperate and effectively communicate with the other parent. Try your best to not argue and avoid conflicts. However, you should do your best to document all your communications and understandings with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, especially as they relate to your children.
Avoid disparagement and social media
If you have social media, now is the time to make sure it has nothing negative on it. And, make sure it never has anything on it that could paint either you or your ex in a bad light. What is posted can be used against you later in court.
You are about to go through a trying time, and that is okay. Many have done it before, and many will do it after you. Prepare for it, and you will be better and happier after.