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Does an extramarital affair affect child custody?

From loss of affection to poor communication, marriages break down in Virginia for a seemingly endless number of ways. If either you or your soon-to-be ex-spouse had an extra-marital affair, though, your divorce may become particularly urgent. Still, you may wonder what impact a parent’s affair has on child custody

Like in many other places, Virginia law allows individuals to file a no-fault divorce petition. In the Old Dominion, you may also choose to blame your spouse for the end of your marriage. While adultery constitutes grounds for a fault-based divorce, it may have little or no effect on the outcome of a related child custody dispute. 

The best interests standard 

When settling custody matters, family law judges in Virginia must weigh the best interests of the children. This requires considering several factors, including the following: 

  •         The preferences of the children and the parents
  •         The age, mental health and physical health of the children and each parent
  •         Each parent’s relationship and parenting role with the kids
  •         The unique needs of the children
  •         Any history of abuse or neglect 

While judges typically enjoy wide latitude to consider other relevant factors, they usually do not draw any inference from a parent’s extramarital relationship. Accordingly, while an affair may take center stage in your overall divorce proceedings, it may not even come up in a child custody dispute. 

Possible interference 

If an affair becomes relevant in a custody matter, it is likely to happen in only a couple ways. First, a judge may order a parent to keep the kids away from his or her new partner until the custody matter concludes. Alternatively, if a parent prioritizes a new relationship over the kids to their detriment, the judge may find that the parent is not meeting the children's needs. 

While an extramarital relationship may destroy a marriage, it is not likely to have much effect on child custody. Still, by understanding how an affair may work its way into a custody matter, you can better advocate for your parental rights.

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