Custody disputes present between parents present challenges for divorce attorneys and the Virginia courts. The overriding consideration when disputes arise as part of a divorce or as a separate child custody case is to achieve a result that puts the best interest of the child ahead of all else. Introduction of a non-biological parent or third party into the dispute complicates things even further.
Virginia child custody laws have authorized courts to consider parties other than biological parents for quite some time, but it also creates a presumption favoring biological parents that courts in Hampton, Newport News and other communities throughout the Commonwealth must follow.
Step-parents and other non-biological parties benefit by consulting with and retaining the services of family law attorneys with experience successfully handling cases involving custody and non-biological parents.
Time Brings Changes to the Nuclear Family
Old TV shows offer an insight into the evolution of the nuclear or traditional family in America. Shows set in the 1950s portray the traditional family as being composed of mom, date and their children. Compare that to how families today are portrayed on TV.
Same-sex marriages, a higher rate of divorce and other changes in cultural norms make it likely that viewers see more single-parent households and households with step-parents portrayed in popular TV shows they watch. What viewers see on their TV screens reflects the societal changes affecting the cases involving custody and non-biological parents.
What began with mom staying home to care for their children while dad worked outside the home to support the family evolved into households with stay-at-home dads caring for the children and mom becoming the bread-winner. Today, the person caring for children may also include:
- Aunts and Uncles
Depending upon the circumstances the primary caregiver could be a close friend of the family. Changes in the structure of the traditional family and a broadening of the scope of the role of non-biological caregivers forced states to make changes to their child custody laws.
Virginia Child Custody Laws Offer Opportunities for Step-Parents
The legislature took note of changes in family dynamics over the years in drafting Virginia child custody laws. Children develop close bonds with relatives and people other than their parents, so the legislature included specific mention of the following categories of people who could be considered when courts make decisions about child custody:
- Former step-parents
- Blood relatives
- Family members