Fox New host, Bill O’Reilly, lost custody of his children after a New York appeals court ruling in February, 2016. O’Reilly and his ex-wife, Maureen McPhilmy, divorced in 2011 and have been embroiled in a custody battle ever since. In making its decision in the high profile matter, the Court stated that “there is a sound and substantial basis for the………determination that it is in the best interests of the children for the mother to be awarded primary custody”. The language utilized by the New York Court is similar to the standard applied in the Commonwealth of Virginia for determination of child custody in domestic matters.

In Virginia, judges consider many factors in deciding child custody matters. These considerations include the age and mental condition of the child, the age and mental condition of each parent, the relationship between each parent and the child, the needs of the child, the best interests of the child, the willingness of each parent to support the child’s contact with the other parent, a willingness of each parent to keep a close relationship with the child, the willingness of each parent to cooperate and resolve disputes and any history of family abuse.

In addition, the following factors may negatively affect the ability of one parent to petition for custody: alcohol abuse; illegal drug use; prescription drug abuse; adultery; cohabitation with another to whom not married; criminal convictions; CPS complaints; mental health issues; and physical impairments that affect one’s ability to care for a child.

The responsibility placed upon a judge to make this determination is substantial. Child custody issues can often be the most personal part of any domestic relations case. The investigation of the matter by

a court appointed guardian ad litem who represents the interests of the child often provides the basis for the judge’s final decision.

Prior to placing the determination of this important matter in the hands of the Court, the parties may attempt to utilize mediation. Mediation is the facilitation of settlement by an independent third party. When both parties adopt a “best interests of the child” mindset during this process, there is a good chance that this emotional issue can be efficiently and successfully resolved.