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  • John C. Whitbeck, Jr.

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    John C. Whitbeck, Jr. practices in the following areas of law: Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Mediation, Arbitration, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Criminal Law, DUI/DWI, Reckless Driving, All Felonies, All Misdemeanors, Juvenile Crimes, Mental Health Law, Civil and Business Litigation, Construction Litigation, Education Law, Election Law, Debt Collection, Consumer and Lemon Law.

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  • Ruth M. McElroy

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    Ruth M. McElroy practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Pre and Post Marital Agreements, Domestic Violence, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Juvenile Crimes, Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes, Traffic Offenses, Debt Collection, Civil and Business Litigation. She serves the Virginia Court system as a Guardian ad litem.

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  • Jennifer D. Cisneros

    Partner

    Jennifer D. Cisneros practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Estate Planning, Wills and Probate, Trusts, Civil and Business Litigation and Debt Collection.

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Reunification in Virginia Custody Cases

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No child custody case is the same, and those involving an absentee parent or spouses who now live in different cities or states can present their own unique set of challenges. One term you may hear is something called reunification.

What is Reunification?

Reunification is pretty much a catch-all term used to describe reuniting family members after some sort of absence. This absence may be voluntary due to one parent choosing not to be involved in the child’s life and suddenly re-emerging in the picture. Or, maybe one parent was forced to move away for work after the spouses separate. Other scenarios may involve a more involuntary separation due to a parent’s incarceration, or a child being removed from a parent’s custody due to neglect, abuse, drugs, mental instability, or some other related issue.

In these cases, it’s not always an easy process or the obvious choice to reunite these parents with their children, at least not without court intervention to determine whether it’s safe, feasible, and in the best interest of all parties. If the reunification is not handled delicately and carefully, it could ruin the relationship and cause lasting issues with the children.

Factors for Assessing a Child’s Return Home

One of the first things to happen is to determine whether certain criteria have been met before further discussion can take place regarding reunification. There needs to be a meeting to determine whether the parent(s) have made progress is correcting whatever conditions led to the removal of the child if the separation was involuntary. Experts will look at whether the family is ready to be reunified or are still a risk to the child if placed back in the parental home.

In the case of an absent parent who suddenly reappears and files a custody and visitation order, it can be emotionally traumatic for a child to be told of a parent they barely know or may not even remember at all. You need a knowledgeable Virginia family law attorney to help ensure your child’s best interests are represented in these instances, as reunification can do more harm than good if not handled carefully.

When Reunification Goes Wrong

Sometimes the court can make a decision that doesn’t appear to be in the child’s best interest, and it can result in lasting emotional scars. The Washington Post shared a story earlier this year involving four children forced to attend a reunification program across the country with their father, who none of the kids wanted to see, let alone live with. The program was so strict the kids were not even allowed to make contact with their mother for 90 days afterwards, so as not to “damage the reunification process,” or the mother could be jailed. What was initially slated to be a four-day workshop ended up keeping these poor children away from their mother for nearly a year. In this case, it was basically a custody sham. This “program” allows the alienated parent to pay a fee to get temporary custody for this workshop, making it an uphill battle for the custodial parent to get the children back.

Contact a Leesburg Family Law Attorney

If you’re dealing with custody issues or have a deadbeat parent who suddenly reappeared in the picture and is demanding visitation rights or custody, contact our team of attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC. We’re a full-service Leesburg family law firm handling custody issues in the state of Virginia. Let our knowledgeable attorneys help protect your custodial rights and ensure your child/children remain in a safe and stable environment.

Resource:

childwelfare.gov/topics/permanency/reunification/

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