Best Interests of The Child: A Ten Factor Journey

Any custody or visitation litigation involving a child in the Commonwealth of Virginia will include at some point a consideration of Virginia Code § 20-124.3- a list of ten factors  that the court must consider in determining who to award custody and visitation of a child. Given the fact that the Court must consider each factor in making a finding, the factors become very important for a parent or other interested party to consider in preparing for a legal fight.

The goal of this ten part series is to shed light on each factor and how to make each factor most effectively work for you in a custody/visitation fight.

Factor 2: The age and physical and mental condition of each parent

While this factor seems perhaps basic information or self-explanatory, it bears considering in custody and visitation disputes.  Age is a factor occasionally if one parent is much older, and has physical difficulties owing to advanced age as it relates to being able to rear a child. Likewise, age can be an issue in the case of minor parents- that is, when a parent is under the age of 18 and still legally a child themselves. Physical condition of each parent is frequently raised as an issue if one party alleges that the other party has a physical disability that somehow impacts the ability of that parent to adequately care for the child. Mental condition of a parent tends to be the biggest factor of these three that parties spend a lot of time focusing on in contested disputes. Often allegations of narcissism, bi-polar disorder, depression, and personality disorders become subjects of custody and visitation hearings to the extent such conditions impact the parenting of the child or children.

If you have a physical or mental health condition that the other parent is trying to use against you, what can you do? It can be helpful to visit your treating physician for records and/or statements that the condition does not impact your ability to care for the child, and your physician may need to come to Court and testify on your behalf. Likewise, a mental health care provider can often provide critical testimony that a mental health diagnosis does not prevent a mother or father from caring for their son or daughter. If both parents have concerns for each other’s mental health, they may choose to agree to both undergoing a forensic psychological evaluation with a professional psychologist and then to have the results given to the Court for consideration.

If you have questions regarding custody and visitation matters in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to reach out to set up a consultation with one of our family law attorneys at or 804-423-1382.