This is the next post in my series on the handling of Virginia child custody cases which involve drug use. My last article discussed the use of discovery in narcotics related custody cases. It is important to understand that you must have evidence of the offending party’s behavior when you go to trial. Otherwise you are simply making an accusation. Discovery is the process by which you acquire such evidence. In this post I will discuss what it is you should expect from the trial process. Trials are complicated and the rules of evidence will be strictly enforced. It is important that you retain an attorney to assist you. Contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
Trial in a child custody case will be similar to what is often portrayed in popular media. Each side will make an opening statement. The party requesting a custody change will present their evidence and witnesses first. The responding party will then present their case. The requesting parent will then present “rebuttal” evidence. Rebuttal is not a time to present new facts or arguments; rebuttal may only be used to directly address claims made by the defense. Once all of the evidence has been presented then each side will make a closing statement. One key difference in family law cases, as opposed to civil or criminal matters, is that the case will be decided by a judge and no jury will be present. The Judge may issue a decision immediately after the trial but, in many instances, will do so within a few days or a week. A written order will be issued after the decision is made and each party will be required to abide by that order.
In cases where a parent is requesting a custody change, due to drug use, then the evidence will focus on the offending parent’s substance abuse issues and how those issues impact the child. Say, for example, that the offending parent was arrested for driving while under the influence of drugs and that the child was in the car. Under such facts the parent requesting a change would likely subpoena the arresting officer so that they may testify as to the facts of the arrest. It would also be a common step to present evidence showing that the offending parent is regularly missing time from work and is engaging in other conduct that is consistent with drug use. Finally, any evidence showing that such conduct is placing the child in danger will be vital. These are just a few examples of the types of evidence which should be presented in such a case. The specific strategy you employ in a trial will depend on the specifics of your given situation. It is strongly suggested that you discuss those specifics with a lawyer.
As a child custody attorney I have handled many matters in Norfolk and Virginia Beach in which a parent was accused of using illegal drugs. I will work to immediately file any necessary Motions and to make sure your case enters the system as quickly as possible. We also service Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, as well as the surrounding counties of Northampton, Isle of Wight, York and James City.