Child custody is usually one of the more contentious issues in a divorce. If you’re facing a custody battle, it’s important to remember that the court aims to act in your child’s best interests. Understanding Virginia guidelines regarding custody can help you do the same.
Types of Custody in Virginia
Legally, there are two major custody types that outline a parent’s legal and physical obligations. Legal custody refers to who has the final say in representing the child’s interests, while physical custody determines where the child resides.
Typically, when people think of custody, they think about whether both parents share childcare responsibilities or whether a sole parent takes care of the child.
In joint legal custody, both parents have decision-making power over the child’s life, such as making medical, educational, religious, and other important life choices.
Joint physical custody means that the child spends time with both parents, either equally or living with one parent during the school year and the other one over holidays. Completely equal joint custody is relatively rare, and in most cases, one parent will be the primary physical custodian while both parents share legal custody.
Sole custody means that one parent acts as both the legal and physical custodian of the child, taking care of all their needs. Sole custody is rare and generally applies to families where the parents are hostile to each other, undermine each other, or in some cases, abuse each other.
Regardless of the initial outcome, custody arrangements aren’t set in stone. As long as the child remains a minor, parents can file for a modification to the arrangement. These modifications often need to show a significant change in circumstances and how these new arrangements would benefit the child.
Visitation Schedule Guidelines in Virginia
Most divorce proceedings require a parenting plan that outlines how parents will continue to parent the child after the divorce. A major part of this plan is the visitation schedule, which determines how much time a child spends with each parent. Two different approaches can work, depending on the circumstances.
Liberal and Flexible Parenting Time
In settlements with joint physical custody, parents may adopt a flexible schedule that roughly fits within a division of time. The parents communicate and work out a schedule as they go, giving them the ability to modify and adapt their visitation as necessary.
These settlements are very rare, mainly due to the expectation that the parents can still communicate effectively and agree easily.
In the majority of cases, parents will need to set a specific schedule that:
● Guarantees time with each parent
● Creates stability and structure
● Is enforceable by the court
● Includes provisions for vacations and school breaks
Parents can come up with any schedule that works for them. Some choose a weekly schedule where the child visits the noncustodial parent on the weekend and spends weekdays with the custodial parent.
Negotiating parenting time can be challenging, and it’s a good idea to contact an experienced family law attorney for guidance. If you need help with scheduling or other child custody issues in Virginia, contact DiPietro Law Group today.