Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Custody dispute: What court do I go to?

When you and the other parent of your child are having a dispute over custody, visitation, child support, etc. the first step is to know what court you should be going to.  The answer is: it depends.

Are you and the other parent married and going through a divorce?  If so, then you have a choice of filing in either the Circuit Court or the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court.  If you choose the Circuit Court, the custody dispute will be handled in connection with your divorce.  If you choose the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, the custody dispute will be handled independently from your divorce. 

Are you and the other parent not married?  If so, you should file in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court.

The Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court is a district court and is a lower court than the Circuit Court.  The J&DR courts handle only juvenile matters and family matters.  Depending on which specific court you are in, the process may be somewhat more relaxed and you may have your case heard sooner than if you were in Circuit Court.  Also, because the J&DR court is a lower court than the Circuit Court, either party can appeal the ruling of the J&DR court to the Circuit Court.  This means, if you are unhappy with the result, you can go to the next highest court and have a completely new trial with a new judge. 

Now that you've figured out which court you should be in, how do you know actually WHERE to go.  Typically you need to be in the court for the county or city where the child resides.  Once that is determined, you can go to the Supreme Court of Virginia website and find the physical address for that court.

While these are the basics for determining which court you should file in, you should seek advice from an attorney to determine which court is best for your specific circumstances.  If you are involved in a custody or visitation dispute and would like a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or clbaudean@baudeanlaw.com.