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Child Custody Lawyers in Charleston, West Virginia

child custodyAs a parent, your main concern is how your divorce will impact your child. Where will the child live? Who will make decisions about the child’s health care, education and other important matters? Will you be able to move with the child to another area?

An experienced West Virginia child custody lawyer from Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, can address all of these issues and more as you go through a divorce. We can use our skill and experience to protect your child’s best interests and your rights as a parent. Our goal is to help you to reach a child custody arrangement with your spouse that meets all of your objectives.

Contact us today by phone or through our online form to schedule a confidential consultation. We help parents who are going through a divorce in Charleston and throughout West Virginia. We would be glad to speak with you right away.

Determining Your Child Custody Goals in a West Virginia Divorce

A court’s primary concern when allocating custodial and decision-making responsibility among parents in West Virginia who are going through a divorce is “the best interest of the child.” In other words, the arrangement – called a “parenting plan” – should:

  • Provide stability for the child
  • Eliminate uncertainty about the child’s care and control
  • Continue existing parent-child attachments and caretaking relationships
  • Allow meaningful contact between the child and both parents
  • Protect the child from exposure to physical or emotional harm.

However, a secondary concern is to “achieve fairness between the parents.” In other words, no arrangement should make it impossible for a parent to continue to have the relationship with a child that he or she desires and deserves.

An attorney from Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, can meet with you and help you to determine your goals. For instance, you may be the one who has always taken your child to school, helped him or her with homework and met with teachers. It follows that you would want that role to continue after a divorce and to have a say in where your child goes to school.

As your child custody lawyers, your goals are our goals.

Arriving at a Parenting Plan

parenting plan
Ideally, you will be able to reach a parenting agreement with your spouse. This can be reached through meetings between you and your lawyer and your spouse and his or her attorney. The agreement should cover issues such as:

  • Living arrangements – A schedule that includes the child spending certain days, weeks or months living with one parent and the balance of time with the other parent. The plan may include who will pay for transportation costs.
  • Holidays – It is important to determine in advance how holidays will be spent. For instance, the plan may allow for shared time with the child on Christmas Day.
  • Other relatives – The plan can also cover the time your child can spend with other relatives such as grandparents, aunts or uncles.
  • Allocation of decision-making responsibility – Raising a child involves many major decisions on matters such as the child’s school and medical care. You need to decide who will make those decisions or whether they will be shared.
  • Other issues – Finally, an agreement between you and your spouse should spell out how disputes will be resolved and violations of the plan will be addressed. The plan should also allow for modifications if circumstances change.

If you and your spouse reach an agreement, you can present a joint proposed parenting plan to a Family Court judge. If the court approves, it will enter the plan into an order. However, if the court finds that the plan – or certain parts of it – would be harmful to the child, the court may reject and/or modify it.

What If You and Your Spouse Cannot Agree to a Parenting Plan?

Unfortunately, child custody can turn into one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. You and your spouse, for instance, may be unable to agree on the child’s living arrangements. Discussions may become hostile.

If this occurs, you may each submit individual proposed parenting plans to the Family Court. A judge may order you to go through mediation. This is a process in which a neutral party – often a former judge – works with both you and your spouse on reaching an agreement.

If mediation fails to produce an agreement, the court will decide on a permanent parenting plan that allocates:

  • Custodial responsibility – The court will generally grant custody that is in proportion to the time each parent spent performing caretaking functions for a child prior to the parents’ separation. So, for instance, if you handled the bulk of bathing, feeding, transporting and other responsibilities with your child, you would likely receive the bulk of custodial responsibility.
  • Decision-making responsibility – The court will take its custodial responsibility determination into consideration as well as other factors, including a parent’s past participation in decisions. Ultimately, if both you and your spouse have both made decisions in the past, a court is likely to decide that it would be in your child’s best interest to give you joint decision-making responsibility in the future.

child relocationIf your spouse violates the plan, you may file a complaint with the Family Court, seeking any number of remedies, including a modification of the plan and payment of all costs the violation has caused you to incur.

What If You Want to Relocate with Your Child?

An issue that often arises in a divorce involving children is one parent’s decision to relocate. If this situation arises after a parenting plan has been entered into an order, you will need to seek a court-ordered modification of the plan.

Generally speaking, this will require you to demonstrate to the court that the move is being made in good faith and for a legitimate purpose such as a career or educational opportunity. You must also show that it is in your child’s best interest.

When making a decision, the court will consider the impact that the move will have on the relationship between the child and other parent.

How a West Virginia Child Custody Lawyer Can Help You

child custody lawyer Mani Ellis Layne
A child custody lawyer from Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, can serve you by:

  • Filing and serving all required documents in a timely manner
  • Compiling evidence that supports your custodial and decision-making goals
  • Working with your spouse and his or her lawyer to reach a joint parenting plan
  • Carefully drafting a parenting plan
  • Aggressively advocating for you in court
  • Filing for enforcement of the plan if the other parent violates its provisions
  • Helping you to obtain a modification of the plan if your circumstances change.

 

Contact a Child Custody Attorney Serving Charleston and West Virginia

The lawyers of Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, are skilled negotiators and litigators who understand the nuances of West Virginia child custody law – and how to put them to work for our clients. Contact us today to discuss your case and how we can help you and your child to secure the future together that you want and deserve.

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