Child Custody, Child Support, and Visitation
Resolving conflict in child custody disputes
Conflict over custody stems from a variety of concerns: Who has the right to make medical decisions for the children? How should the children be disciplined? What schools are best? Where should the children spend holidays? Who should the children live with for the greater part of the year? Are there exigent circumstances that require immediate transfer of custody? Is it necessary to terminate parental rights? If a parent decides to relocate to another state, what are the non-custodial parent's rights? If a parent loses a job, is he/she still responsible for child support?
Attorney Julia B. Shalhoup assesses the conflict to develop a comprehensive plan of action. Depending on the nature of the dispute and the relationship between the disputants, attorney Shalhoup can help you decide between litigation and mediation alternatives. In general, it is advantageous for parents to determine child custody arrangements between themselves through mediation, rather than rely on a court to resolve the conflict. Attorney Julia Shalhoup applies various mediation techniques to establish and modify child custody arrangements so that they work in the long term. When appropriate, mediation can serve as a cooperative and cost-effective alternative to litigation that fosters better relationships between parents and their children.
Discuss your case with attorney Julia Shalhoup to find out whether litigation or mediation is a viable option for you and your family; call (304) 345-4455.
A West Virginia child custody law overview
West Virginia follows a shared custody model. Each parent is granted approximately the same amount of time with the child as each parent had during the marriage (or other arrangement). A "50/50" child custody arrangement does not occur unless that was how custody was shared during the marriage. Courts prefer joint custody for legal purposes.
Custody is generally divided into three types: physical custody, legal custody, and temporary custody. Physical custody is the parent's right to be with the child and is usually used to mean the parent with whom the child lives most of the time. Legal custody is a parent’s right to make medical, educational, and child-rearing decisions, and is usually shared by the parents. Temporary custody can mean simply the parent who has the child with them at the moment, or it may be court-awarded while issues are worked out.
If the court decides not to grant custody, the non-custodial parent still has rights. Visitation is always available to non-custodial parents. Even in cases where drug use or child abuse is alleged, courts grant supervised visitation.
Non-custodial parents are also required to pay child support, based on respective income, expenses, and the needs of the children. The amount of child support is a percentage of the paying parent's income that increases with the number of children to be supported. Generally, the following factors that are almost universally considered by judges when issuing child support orders:
- The relative incomes of the parents
- The needs of the child or children, including educational costs, daycare expenses and medical expenses (health insurance or special health care needs)
Once a court issues a child support order, can the amount of support that is paid be changed?
The amount of child support may be modified under certain circumstances and through a variety of methods. The simplest method is for the parents to agree to a change, but the court must approve even an agreed-upon change in order to be enforceable.
When there is no voluntary agreement, the party seeking the change must request a court hearing at which each side will present, usually through counsel, the reasons supporting and opposing the modification. The court usually will not grant the request unless there has been a significant change in circumstances that justifies the change, such as a significant increase in either parent's income, a job change, or a change in the child's custody. Changes in the child support laws, too, may justify a change in previously issued orders. Generally, periodic increases can be provided for in the original order so that the parties do not need to make repeated court appearances each time there is a significant change in the cost of living.
What are parents' obligations to their children?
Every parent has the duty to provide his or her children with the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing and shelter. This duty usually terminates when the child is emancipated, when the child graduates from high school, or when the child enters the military or when the child marries, but the support obligation can extend beyond that point if the child requires additional financial care. Through divorce or other circumstances, the child may live with one parent or commute between households as decided by a split custody arrangement. Depending on the type of custody arrangement, West Virginia laws specify the amount of parental support each parent must provide.
How do courts decide which parent deserves custody?
When the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will make the decision for them. When determining the child's best interests, the court may consider may factors, including
- The child's age
- The child's gender
- The child's physical and mental health
- The parents' physical and mental health
- The parents' lifestyles
- Any history of abuse
- The emotional bonds between the parent and the child
- The parent's ability to give the child guidance
- The parent's ability to provide the basic necessities, such as food, shelter, clothing and medical care
- The child's routines, including home, school, community and religious
- The willingness of the parent to encourage a healthy, ongoing relationship between the child and the other parent
- If the child is above a certain age, the child's preference
- Who has been the child's primary caretaker?
Protect your parental rights. Call today: (304) 345-4455.
To learn more about your legal rights as a parent or custodian in West Virginia, contact the law office of Julia Shalhoup. From offices located in Charleston, the law firm of Julia B. Shalhoup represents clients throughout West Virginia, including Charleston, Hurricane, Winfield, Madison, Elkview, Ripley, Beckley, Hamlin, and Spencer, and Putnam, Kanawha, Boone, Lincoln, Jackson, Roane, Cabell, Clay, and Raleigh counties. Schedule a consultation today to discuss the details of your case: (304) 345-4455.