Virginia Child Custody Best Interests Russel County Fairfax Richmond Loudoun Prince William Fredericksburg Lynchburg
Nina Sue Patrick v. Linda Lou Byerley
Supreme Court of Virginia
228 Va. 691
January 18, 1985
Alexander and Byerley separated in June 1982, Alexander taking the child with him but Byerley kept contact with the child and brought him to her home periodically for visits. During one of these visits Alexander abandoned the child. The child continued to live with Byerley in a stable and wholesome environment until the present custody suit was initiated by the natural mother. The Trial Court, Russell County, found by clear and convincing evidence that the natural mother had abandoned the child and that the child’s best interests would be served by remaining in Byerley’s custody, thus awarding custody to her. The plaintiff natural mother appealed from a judgment.
Whether the trial court erred in awarding child custody to the step mother?
The court found “by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence” that Patrick “voluntarily abandoned” Chris when he was approximately four and one-half months old. We conclude that the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to Byerley, supports this finding. As previously noted, Patrick left Chris to live with Tommy Patrick. Thereafter, she saw Chris infrequently for a time, but never again had his custody and made no effort to obtain it. She became a total stranger to her son. The court also found that “the best interests of Chris would be served by his remaining in the care and custody of Byerley. In so finding, the court noted that for the last three and one-half years Byerley had cared for Chris as a member of her own family, and that the Byerley home is the only stable home environment Chris has ever experienced. The court also recognized Chris’ preference to remain in Byerley’s home. We conclude that this finding is also amply supported by the evidence. The relationship between Byerley and Chris is one of mutual devotion in a wholesome environment. Clearly, to divest Byerley of custody after caring for Chris for nearly five years would be highly disruptive to Chris and not in his best interest. Moreover, it is Chris’ strong desire that he remain in the custody of Byerley, and, although his wishes are not controlling, the court properly considered his preference and gave weight to it.
Accordingly, this court affirmed the trial court judgment.
These summaries are provided by the SRIS Law Group. They represent the firm’s unofficial views of the Justices’ opinions. The original opinions should be consulted for their authoritative content.
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tags: Best, Child, County, Custody, Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Interests, Loudoun, Lynchburg, Prince, Richmond, Russel, Virginia, William