During their initial separation and after a divorce is final, parents often will seek court orders regarding child custody. The future is often uncertain and the added stress from your recent divorce doesn’t make things any easier. When you work with our dedicated and proven Northern Virginia child custody attorneys, you can be certain that the best interests of you and your children are our priority. 

There are a lot of options available for child custody in Virginia. Our attorneys at Williams Stone, PC will work with you to come up with an arrangement that takes your schedule, work obligations, and other responsibilities into account.

Types of Child Custody in Virginia

There is legal and physical custody in Virginia.  

Legal custody has to do with who gets to make major decisions in the child’s life such as medical and educational decisions.  

The court will normally award “joint legal” custody when both parents are capable of making sound decisions regarding the child. In this situation, the court assumes that both parents can work together to make good decisions for their children.  

If one of the parents can’t be relied on to make sound legal decisions, or if the parents can’t work together on making decisions, then the court will award legal custody to only one of the parents. This is sole legal custody. 

Physical custody has to do with which parent the child lives with on a daily basis. 

Under Virginia law, there are different types of child custody, including:

1. Sole Custody

With sole custody, one parent will assume the role of emotional, physical and moral development of the child. The arrangement is defined under Virginia Code § 20-124.1. Sole custody states that one parent will be the one who will be fully responsible for the upbringing of the child. We can educate you on what is required to obtain sole custody in Virginia. 

2. Primary Physical Custody

In most cases, the court will award primary physical custody to one of the parents. This means that the child will live with that parent and the other parent will have visits with the child on a regular basis. 

3. Shared Custody

With shared custody in Virginia, each parent has “physical custody” of a child for more than 90 days. Under these shared support guidelines, the primary custodian will typically receive less child support than under the regular child support guidelines because it is assumed that the child has two homes and therefore each parent has to provide a large amount of support. 

4. Split Custody

Split custody occurs where there is more than one child and one parent custody over at least one, but not all, of the children, and the other parent, has custody over the other or remaining children.  Split custody is not common as there is a preference for all children to live together. 

How Do the Courts Decide?

Listed below are some of the most common factors Virginia courts use to grant child custody in Virginia:

1. The Status Quo

The status quo is powerful. A judge almost always sides with whatever makes the children most comfortable. Whoever remains in the marital home tends to have the upper hand where the children are most likely the happiest.  

2. Primary Caregiver

A judge will most likely want to know who the primary caregiver was when you were married. Items such as taking the kids to school and picking them up, helping with homework, taking them to the doctor, putting them to bed, doing laundry, and more are sometimes factors a judge will use to help determine custody. 

3. The Parent-Child Relationship

The parent who has the strongest bond with the children can be considered with custody. For example, a parent who takes the children out hiking or to after-school activities on a regular basis might have an advantage here. The parent-child relationship factor is very difficult to quantify. 

4. Cooperation

One parent may decide to lash out at the other parent or attempt to make his or her life miserable with bad behavior. If this is proven in court, a judge may grant custody to the parent who was “cooperating” and on good behavior.

5. Reasonable Preference of the Child

Virginia allows the court to consider “reasonable preference” when deciding custody. This basically means that the child, or children, potentially has a say as to whether he or she stays with mom or dad. 

6. History of Violence or Abuse

This factor is simple. A court will not place a child in harm’s way.

We Are Experienced in Child Custody Disputes Involving:

Listed below are some of the most common custody situations we work with.

  • Divorcing parents
  • Unmarried parents
  • Grandparents’ rights
  • Military personnel
  • Modifications to custody or visitation
  • Enforcement of visitation and child support
  • Drug and alcohol abuse modifications
  • Step-parent adoptions
  • Paternity disputes

Contact Williams Stone, PC Today

You may need legal advice and representation about child custody and visitation matters in Virginia. If so, our attorneys can help. We will work with you toward acquiring a solution that will help serve the best interest of your children. Contact us today to speak to an experienced attorney at Williams Stone, PC.

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