Child custody disputes often arise when one or both divorcing parents feel as though the child’s welfare is threatened or that their own parental rights are being violated. Although both parents ultimately want what is best for the child, they may disagree on living arrangements, child support, or parenting time.

With so much at stake, a person seeking child custody should consult a family law attorney. E. Gordon Peters, Jr., Attorney at Law, offers full legal services for clients in child custody dispute cases. To find out more about legal options in establishing a parenting plan, contact Gordon for a consultation. He represents clients in Lynchburg, Blackstone, and surrounding communities throughout Virginia.

Child Custody Arrangement Options

Parents seeking child custody have two main options:

Settle Out Of Court

The best option for reaching a custody agreement is to settle out of court. Both parents come to a mutual agreement about how the child will be raised and who becomes the custodial parent. Both parties can meet face to face or work through their lawyers to address issues such as financial matters, parenting time, visitation, and even the possibility of one parent moving out of state.

There are several benefits to settling out of court including:

  • A faster legal process

  • Fewer legal expenses

  • Less emotional stress

  • More parental control

  • Less emotional pain on the child

An experienced family law attorney can moderate the agreement, keep the conversation on track, and prepare the terms to present to the court.

Child Custody Trial in Court

If the parties cannot agree on child custody arrangements, they may take their case to court where a judge decides the parenting plan in the best interest of the child. One of the benefits of taking a case to court is that it can provide leverage for a parent or child whose rights have been violated. The downside, however, is that there are no guarantees of the outcome of the case. Having a lawyer who can advocate for the client and navigate the legal process is essential.



What is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?

There are two different types of child custody:

1. Legal Custody

A parent who has legal custody of a child is able to make key decisions in the child’s upbringing. They have the legal right to decide core issues such as the child’s education, religious upbringing, home life, or medical care. In Virginia, the courts regularly award legal custody to both parents so that they share in the decision-making.

While joint legal custody is preferred, it is not always feasible. For instance, a parent whose actions are detrimental to the child, may face legal consequences or lose custody. To gain sole legal custody, the court will need to be convinced that joint custody is not in the best interest of the child.

2. Physical Custody

Nearly 13 million parents in the U.S. live with a child under the age of 21, while the other parent lives elsewhere. In a divorce, physical custody is often a point of contention because both parents want as much parenting time with the child as possible. Joint physical custody is ideal if both parents live close and can share the child equally.

In many cases, one parent is designated as the custodial parent; meaning, they have primary custody of the child. The other parent is given visitation rights based on a custodial arrangement or a court decision.

Factors Considered in Establishing Custody

When establishing a child custody arrangement, both parties or the court must take several factors into consideration:

  • Age and mental condition of the child

  • Age and mental condition of the parent

  • Relationship between the parent and child

  • The needs of the child

  • Best interests of the child

  • The willingness of each parent to support the relationship of the child with the other parent

  • The willingness of each parent to cooperate and resolve disputes

  • History of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse

Once custody has been established, there may come a time when a major life change may warrant the modification of an existing arrangement. The proposed modification must be due to a “substantial” change of circumstances and must be in the best interest of the child. Situations that may be considered substantial include loss of a job, relocation, changes in lifestyle/home environment, or instances of abuse or neglect.


Without legal representation, navigating a child custody case can be an uphill climb. E. Gordon Peters, Jr., Attorney at Law will help you fight for your rights and the best interest of your child. Contact him today and schedule a case assessment. Gordon proudly serves clients in Lynchburg and Blackstone, Virginia as well as Amherst County, Bedford County, Nottoway County, Prince Edward County, and Charlotte County.