West Virginia Child Custody/Visitation Lawyers
When you have a legal issue involving your children, it’s impossible to be too cautious. The agreements and concessions you make at this point of your life could affect some of the most important relationships you’ll ever have—and that’s why it’s so important to work with an attorney when you’re having child custody issues
Our team handles a wide range of custody cases. Maybe you and your child’s other parent were never married, and you just need help putting a custody plan into writing for the court. Perhaps you’re going through a divorce and you’re worried about losing your parenting rights to your ex. Regardless of what your situation is, we’re here to help. At Pence Law Firm, we understand that every family is different and you need a custody arrangement that suits your unique needs. Call us at 304-345-7250 to set up a consultation with our team of West Virginia custody lawyers.
Different Custody Arrangements in West Virginia
There are many different ways you can set up a custody agreement to accommodate your children’s needs. West Virginia is a shared parenting state, and the court generally prefers that children spend substantial time with both parents whenever possible. Of course, there are circumstances where that doesn’t work—if one parent isn’t interested in custody, one parent works irregular hours that cannot accommodate childcare, or one parent lives out of the state, to name a few. However, it marks a good starting point to begin negotiations.
Before you begin exploring your options, you should know the differences between physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child actually spends their time. The parents may share joint physical custody or the child may remain in one parent’s custody while the other parent has visitation. Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to the right to make decisions about your child’s upbringing. In many cases, the parents share joint legal custody even if one parent has physical custody.
Factors Affecting Custody Agreements
A number of factors may influence the court’s final decision. Remember that the court generally only steps in when the parents are unable to come to a suitable agreement on their own. In many cases, the parents eventually agree on a schedule and the court signs off on it. In these circumstances, the court will only override that agreement if the agreement is not in the children’s best interests.
Factors that may affect the court’s decision include:
- The child’s current relationship with both parents
- The child’s physical, educational, and emotional needs
- Relationships the child has with extended family members and siblings
- Who has served as the child’s caretaker in the past
- The parents’ relationship with each other
- Both parents’ locations
- How strong the connection is between the child and their current school, community, and home
- Each parent’s physical and mental abilities to serve as a caretaker
- Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse
As you can tell, these decisions are complex and nuanced. If one parent does have a history of domestic violence or substance abuse that would threaten the child’s safety, they may not begin with unsupervised visitation. Depending on the evidence provided to the court, the court may choose to require supervised visitation for an extended period of time or otherwise limit their parenting time.
Developing a Schedule That Suits Your Family
If you have shared physical custody, there are many ways you may choose to structure it. In the past, the one-week on/one-week off schedule was the most popular. Many parents are now finding that one week is too long to go without their children on a regular basis.
In light of that, the 2-2-3 schedule is gaining popularity. The child spends two days with Parent A, two days with Parent B, three days with Parent A, two days with Parent B, two days with Parent A, and three days with Parent B. This two-week schedule ensures that both parents get weekends with their children and plenty of weekday parenting time.
Of course, there’s no law that you have to go with a prearranged custody schedule. You can look at your and your co-parent’s other obligations, work schedules, and other needs to come up with an agreement that suits everyone.
If one parent has primary physical custody, it’s important to think about when the children will have time with their non-custodial parent. Many families choose to do every-other-weekend visitations, along with time at holiday breaks and summer break.
As you negotiate your custody agreement, don’t forget to think about holidays. This can be a sticking point for some parents, but it’s important to make these decisions and put them in your parenting plan. It’s common to swap major holidays and the child’s birthday every year. Many parents also agree that the child will spend Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with the respective parents.
How Pence Law Firm Can Help
The team at Pence Law Firm knows how stressful custody disagreements can be for West Virginia parents. Even if you and your co-parent have an amicable relationship, it’s frightening to know that it can change in a moment. A strong custody agreement can iron out any issues you may have and lay the groundwork for a productive co-parenting relationship.
We’re also here for you if your current custody agreement is no longer meeting your needs. Perhaps your children are older and want to have more of a say in where they spend their time. This may warrant a change in custody agreement and child support order. Maybe one parent has moved away and given up their visitation time, and you want to put that in writing. Change is the only constant in life, and when your custody needs change, we’re ready to bring your concerns to court.
Choose Our Firm for Your West Virginia Custody Needs
Wherever you are in negotiations and whatever your relationship with your co-parent is like, working with Pence Law Firm will bring you peace of mind and minimize your stress. Let’s talk about your custody options, develop a plan, and get started. Call us at 304-345-7250 or reach out online to set up a time to talk.