Legal Professionals of Hirsch & Ehlenberger

A child’s age can influence custody decisions in Virginia

On Behalf of | Jan 16, 2024 | Child Custody

Custody battles can be intense and unpredictable. Parents find themselves in a struggle for their children’s welfare. However, despite the rise of emotions, courts will remain firm in their commitment to facts. They focus more on what’s best for the children involved. One critical fact is the child’s age, which often plays a significant role in custody decisions.

This factor particularly comes into play when the court evaluates the credibility of a child’s expressed preference in the custody arrangement.

How age factors into custody cases

In Virginia, child custody proceedings are governed by the principle of the “best interests of the child.” This standard considers a variety of factors, including the child’s age. For very young children, courts might assess who has been the primary caregiver, as maintaining consistency is crucial for a child’s development.

As children mature, their expressed preferences may start to carry weight in court. Once they reach a certain age and maturity level, they can exercise their right to express a preference regarding their custody arrangement. While age isn’t the sole factor Virginia courts consider in child custody matters, its importance tends to escalate as the child grows older.

It isn’t the only factor

While a child’s age plays a significant role in custody decisions, it’s crucial to remember it’s only one of many factors. Virginia courts also evaluate the parents’ ability to meet the child’s needs, the status of their health, the relationship between each parent and the child, and any history of family abuse or neglect. Despite the weight of a child’s preference, there’s no specific age in Virginia law where a child can unilaterally determine which parent to live with. The court has the final say and makes its decision with the child’s best interests as a guiding principle.


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