How to Appeal a Virginia Custody Order

An appeal is the legal process where a higher court reviews the decision of a lower court. Before you appeal a Virginia custody order, it’s important to understand the appellate process.

Last updated on March 21st, 2019

Before you can appeal a Virginia custody order, it is important to understand the basics of custody orders in Virginia.

When two parents decide to separate and get divorced, the parents will have to make decisions on the custody arrangement of any minor children between the couple.

In some instances, the couple is able to come to an agreement about custody and visitation rights in a child custody agreement

However, if the parents are unable to come to an agreement on custody and visitation arrangements, then a Virginia Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court may have to intervene.

In this event, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge will have to make the decision of who receives custody of the child.

How Does the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Determine Custody?

If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement in regards to custody of your minor children, a judge from your local Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court will be forced to intervene.

The court considers the following when measuring the best interests of the child:

  1. The age and physical and mental condition of the child, with consideration given to the child’s developmental needs;
  2. The age and physical and mental condition of the parent;
  3. The relationship existing between each parent and child, with consideration given to the positive involvement in the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of the child;
  4. The needs of the child, giving consideration to other important relationships of the child such as siblings, peers, and extended family members;
  5. The role the parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;
  6. The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;
  7. The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;
  8. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference;
  9. Any history of family or sexual abuse.
  10. Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.

When deciding custody, the judge will take all of these factors, and more, into account.

What happens if I am don’t agree with with the Court’s decision?

If you disagree with the final custody decision provided by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge, you may appeal that decision to a higher court.

An appeal is a legal process where a higher court reviews the decision of a lower court. The appellate process serves to correct any errors on the part of the lower courts judgments and clarify any law that the lower court may have misinterpreted.

How to Appeal a Custody Order in Virginia

The first step necessary to appeal a Virginia custody order is to file the appeal in writing with the clerk of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court that heard your case.

There are actually several different levels of courts in Virginia, ranging from the local to state level. When you appeal a decision in a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, your appeal will go up to your local Circuit Court

In order to appeal a Virginia custody order from your local Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, the first step is to appeal this decision to the Circuit Court.

In order to appeal a Virginia custody order, you must make the appeal within ten days after the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court has made a decision on your case. As long as the paperwork is filed within ten days after the decision, you can appeal a Virginia custody order.

After you have filed your request in writing to the clerk, your case will be heard de novo by the Circuit Court.

This means that the court will re-hear your entire case from scratch. Once the Circuit Court judge has heard your entire case they can choose to either uphold or change the previous decision.

Generally, this will happen within 90 days of the date you filed your appeal.

This hearing itself will essentially work the same way as your hearing in the lower court. However, since the judge is trying your case de novo you can choose a different strategy or show further evidence of why the lower court’s decision was incorrect.

After the Circuit Court renders its final decision, the Circuit Court will file a copy of its judgment with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court within twenty-one days of entry of its order.

Once the judgment of the Circuit Court reaches the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, their judgment becomes the ruling of the Juvenile Court.

Is it worth it to Appeal a Virginia Custody Order?

The appellate process is long, expensive, and not always successful. A question that anyone considering the appellate process needs to think about is whether it is worth it to appeal.

While this is a personal decision you must make, there are some important things that you should consider before deciding to appeal a Virginia custody order.

The appeal process is expensive. When you appeal a Virginia custody order to the Circuit Court you are essentially having a whole new trial to decide custody. The costs of this proceeding can include additional legal and court costs which can be expensive.

You should always discuss your options with your original custody attorney before choosing to file an appeal.

Alternatives to Courtroom Child Custody Battles

When you appeal a Virginia custody order, you essentially are going through a child custody trial not once, but twice. This means that you are spending a lot of time and money on various court-related costs.

The appellate process can certainly be beneficial for some parties, however there are cheaper and less time consuming alternatives if you can come to an agreement with your former significant other.

The best alternative may be to avoid the courtroom battle all together.

Parties can do this by negotiating and agreeing to a child custody agreement. By creating a comprehensive child custody agreement, the parents of the minor children make all the important decisions instead of judge.

A child custody agreement has the ability to save you months of time and thousands of dollars in legal costs. If you can come to an agreement with your spouse then a child custody agreement may be a better alternative for all parties by avoiding grueling courtroom battles.

Conclusion

Ultimately, your fight for child custody does not end in a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. If you disagree with the court’s decision, you may appeal that decision in your local Circuit Court.

In order to successfully appeal a Virginia custody order, having an experienced family law attorney by your side is highly recommended. Ultimately, having an experienced attorney by your side can best serve to protect the things most important to you.

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