In determining the best interests of a child for custody and visitation arrangements, the Court considers a variety of factors. Each factor is weighed in order to suit the best interest of the child, as it is of the utmost importance for the child’s safety, health, and well-being to be put first. The ultimate goal is to foster the child’s happiness, security, and health. The Virginia Code lays out a set of 10 factors that are considered (see Virginia Code § 20-124.3 for specific code section). Parental rights are often terminated in the best interest of the child. Courts rely on a set of appropriate, standard factors while looking at evidence supporting its decision. For example, parental rights are often terminated if the parent creates a known danger to the child.

Factors in Determining the Best Interest of the Child

These factors include:

  • Age and physical and mental condition of the child
  • Age and physical and mental condition of each parent
  • Relationship between each parent with the child
  • Needs of the child
  • Role each parent has played in the upbringing and care of the child
  • Parent’s propensity to support the child’s conduct and relationship with the other parent
  • Willingness and ability of each parent to maintain a relationship with the child
  • Child’s preferences
  • History of family abuse or sexual abuse
  • Any other factors the court deems necessary to consider

The purpose of determining the best interests of the child is to decide who is most suited to serve as guardian for the child, whether it be a parent, grandparent, other relative, or the foster care system.

Mother Failed to Rectify Problems Within her Home and Was Not Able To Regain Custody of Her Children

In a recent Virginia case out of Virginia Beach, a mother failed to rectify the problems within her home that initially led to her losing custody and her children being placed in the foster care system. 

Three years had passed since the children were initially placed in the foster care system. In those three years, the mother failed to find stable employment. Additionally, she failed to find and maintain suitable housing for the children. She also failed drug tests and was both unwilling and unable to provide a proper environment for her children to be raised in.

The Court Held That The Children Would Stay in the Foster Care System

The Court found that the children were developing mentally, emotionally, and physically in the foster care system, and the mother’s haphazard visits were doing more harm than good to the children’s development. Therefore, the children were not permitted to move back in with the mother and instead remained in the foster care system, as this was in their best interest.

Court Terminated Mother’s Parental Rights in Another Case

In another recent case, the Court upheld a decision for a mother’s termination of her parental rights because she failed to take efforts to treat her substance abuse issues. The children where placed in the foster care system. When they entered the foster care system they were experiencing severe developmental delays. Their foster parents fostered nurturing habits to ensure the children were cared for within their new home. 

The mother failed to stabilize her mental health condition which caused the living arrangements of the child to be hazardous and dangerous, so to the point living in the home was not in the child’s best interest. The mother had a certain amount of time to stabilize and correct the living situation for the child, yet failed to do so. Therefore, her parental rights were terminated because she failed to create a safe environment for her child.

Smith Strong, PLC: An Experienced Law Firm for Parental Termination Cases

Smith Strong, PLC has experience in arguing in favor of keeping parental rights and can provide the guidance to navigate the legal system to resolve parental right termination. As these cases are very fact specific, please call our firm for a comprehensive case evaluation. 

Contact Attorney Van Smith today for questions involving custody and work with him to develop a case-specific plan to help ensure your child’s best interests are put first. 

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg