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The truth about child custody

Parents in Virginia who are negotiating child custody issues may be making important decisions based on common misconceptions that abound. There are several specific myths of which parents should be aware when trying to reach agreements.

Many people think that a parent who leaves or abandons a child has automatically surrendered his or her child custody rights. In actuality, in most states, both parents share physical and legal custody of their child until the court issues a formal order. So if one parent ups and disappears, the other one will need to officially file for custody and await the court's approval in order to obtain sole physical or legal custody of his or her child.

Contrary to popular belief, free legal representation is not limited to just criminal cases. At any time during a child custody case, if a parent is unable to afford his or her own attorney, he or she may request free legal representation.

While many people presume that parents are required to be represented by attorneys in child custody cases, this is not true. Individuals have the option of speaking for themselves in court by filing for custody pro se, although it is advisable that they first at least consult with lawyers.

There is also a widespread assumption that the courts may rule against a parent because of his or her gender or lack of financial standing. In truth, the courts are required to consider many different factors when making custody decisions, and what is best for the child is always the primary guiding factor.

A family law attorney can help people resolve any legal disputes that result from divorce, such as child custody. A lawyer may work to ensure that his or her clients' rights and interests are protected during litigation, negotiation or mediation procedures. He or she may advise clients of which legal avenues may help them obtain the most beneficial divorce settlement terms.

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