Child Custody Attorneys Serving Maryland, Virginia & Washington, D.C.
Child custody disputes can be incredibly stressful, and no two are the same. You might find that you have child custody issues during a separation and divorce, after your divorce is finalized, or as part of a relationship that didn’t involve marriage.
The Washington D.C. based family law attorneys at Gowen Silva & Winograd PLLC understand how to handle these matters and will provide sound legal counsel in any of these situations. Our firm understands that nothing is as important to you as your children, and will treat your case with the utmost respect and sensitivity that it deserves.
In any situation involving minor children, the children’s best interests must be a priority. Not only should this be a guiding principle for parents, but it is also the guideline now used by most family law courts. When we take your case, we will fight aggressively for your fair child custody and visitation rights. Contact our office today to schedule your initial consultation.
Child Custody – When the Courts Get Involved
Most family law courts – including those in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia – will favor a resolution that ensures frequent contact with both parents regardless of who has custody. Whether you are divorcing or were never married, you have the opportunity to create a voluntary settlement agreement for custody and visitation with your child’s other parent.
Unfortunately, many parents can’t agree on who should have custody of the children and even on the terms of a reasonable visitation schedule. Family law courts won’t favor one parent (such as the mother) over another. But they will step in and render a custody and visitation order that serves the child’s best interests.
Some of the factors that the courts consider include:
- The age, mental, and physical condition of each parent;
- The age mental, and physical condition of the child as well as their developmental needs;
- The child’s preference in some cases;
- The existing relationship between each parent and the child;
- Parental ability to provide financial, developmental, and emotional support;
- Parental ability to provide frequent access to peers and other family members;
- Each parent’s history of and interest in supporting the child’s relationship with the other parent;
- Each parent’s willingness to cooperate in resolving disputes related to the custody and visitation; and
- Other factors that the court feels are relevant in serving the child’s best interests.
Different Types of Custody
Most courts, including those in D.C., begin with the concept that parents should share equally in custody and decision-making responsibilities. Judges would prefer not to make custody decisions, but you may need to go to court to fight for the best interests of your child. Some of the ways that custody can be divided include:
Sole Physical Custody
The physical care and control of the child is granted to just one parent, and the other parent may or may not have visitation rights.
Joint Physical Custody
Both parents are given the responsibility for caring for children, so time may be split between the two residences.
Sole Legal Custody
This is generally given to a parent that also has sole physical custody. It also gives that parent exclusive legal rights to make decisions for the child regarding education, health care, travel, religion, etc.
Joint Legal Custody
This can come with any type of physical custody. It gives both parents the legal right to participate in important decisions, even if the child lives with one parent more than the other.
Establishing a parent’s visitation rights is just as important as dealing with the issue of custody. As your family law attorney, we will work diligently to ensure that you receive adequate and fair access to your children. This includes weekly visitation as well as time during major holidays and birthdays.
Many states now require that parents attend parenting classes as part of a child custody or divorce agreement. In D.C., the judge makes this determination on a case-by-case basis.
Maryland law requires that parents who are involved in a custody dispute attend educational seminars that help them understand child development and the impact of their joint decisions. Virginia will require that parents do the same.
Child Custody Modification and Enforcement
It can be difficult to modify a custody or visitation order, but not impossible. In most states, if there is a substantial and material change in circumstances, you can request a modification if it would be in the best interests of the child. Whether you are requesting a modification or objecting to one, it’s important to secure the advice and services of experienced legal counsel to safeguard the rights of you and your children.
There may also be instances where a parent that has a valid custody and visitation order is denied their rights by the other parent. If this happens, you can ask the family law court to enforce the order and provide you with additional time to make up for what was lost.
Third Party Custody
In situations where a child’s biological parents are unable to properly care for their children, a third-party custody arrangement may be necessary. The courts always favor parental custody, followed by a close relative. Our firm understands the complexities and emotions involved in these cases and can help explain and protect your rights.
Speak with an Experienced Washington D.C. Child Custody Lawyer
Whether you and your child’s other parent largely agree on custody or find it impossible to come to terms, it’s in your best interests to seek the advice of a seasoned family law attorney. Modifying these agreements once they’re approved by the courts can be a tall order, and ignorance of the law is not a valid reason for doing so. Your child’s best interests and wellbeing are at stake, so we recommend a thorough a deliberate approach.
At Gowen Silva & Winograd PLLC, one of our focuses is family law. We serve clients throughout the Washington D.C. area – including Maryland and Northern Virginia. Our attorneys understand how difficult family law disputes can be, and we aim to help you make the best choices for you and your loved ones. Contact us now at 202-408-5400 or reach out to us online to schedule an initial consultation.