Child Custody & Visitation Battles During High-Conflict Divorces

If you are going through a high-conflict divorce or a highly contested divorce and you have children, you most likely have gone to court several times over the visitation and custody rights of your children. High-conflict spouses will sometimes attempt to withhold visitation, exclude you from important information about your children’s lives, or make allegations about your ability to be a good parent.

In Virginia, gaining sole custody is extremely difficult because most judges seem to believe that both parents are fit, able to take care of their children, and both should have equal visitation and custody rights. Virginia law does not provide a paternal or maternal preference, and the trend seems to be that judges are starting off with a preference for joint legal and joint physical custody.

Below, we explain the two ways courts decide custody and visitation:

Order by Agreement

As hard as this may seem, especially during a high-conflict divorce, a child custody and visitation agreement may be the best way to proceed. This is because litigation can be very expensive, and you’re taking a big gamble to let a judge decide what is best for your children.

If your spouse is high-conflict or otherwise suffering from a diagnosed or undiagnosed personality disorder, you may want to think about the nature of that personality disorder. Many spouses are wildly erratic and impulsive and seek instant gratification. You should find an attorney who is familiar with dealing with high-conflict people. A lawyer with a unique understanding of high-conflict divorce will be able to more effectively deal with this type of spouse during litigation.

There are many important factors you want to include in this type of agreement, which is why it’s best to have an experienced attorney draft one for you. You may want to add in the following things:

  • Aright of first refusal
  • Allowing paramours to spend the night
  • Which spouse pays attorneys’ fees for an unsuccessful attempt to modify the order

When dealing with a narcissist or other disordered spouse, an understanding of their manipulative behaviors is extremely important.

The Judge Decides

No one likes to lose, but for a narcissist, losing feels like the total annihilation of their existence. Narcissists will refuse to negotiate with you and may view any attempts to resolve your custody issues as an absolute capitulation. If you choose to go this way, you’re going to have to understand the nuances of Virginia law and how judges make their custody and visitation decisions.

Litigating child custody can be very stressful, costly, and time-consuming. Remember, most divorce cases in Virginia result with each parent getting some custody and liberal visitation rights. Courts generally would not deprive a parent of their constitutional rights to custody or visitations with their children, unless the parent is unfit. The fact that the other parent has a long criminal record or serious felony convictions does not automatically disqualify them from getting full custody or visitation rights.

Some serious medical and mental health conditions do not disqualify a parent from getting a full custody or visitation. This includes personality disorders. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a mental health evaluator’s finding of a diagnosed personality disorder, remember, even narcissists have the capacity to be decent parents. Just because someone has the capacity to be a good parent doesn’t mean they actually will be a good parent. Make sure you have your attorney help you decipher a custody or mental health evaluation.

Consult with a Fairfax Divorce Lawyer Today

If you’re looking for an experienced Virginia family and divorce law attorney, contact Keithley Law, PLLC today by calling (703) 865-7710 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office. Our attorneys are experienced in high-conflict divorces and helping people navigate through the frustrations of divorcing a narcissist.

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