Navigating Child Custody in Virginia
Family law cases that involve custody are emotionally trying, and it can sometimes seem impossible to come to an agreement about custody and visitation with your spouse. Because of these procedure complexities, it is important to find an experienced child custody lawyer to help see you through your case. Virginia does not have a set formula through which these arrangements are set because each case is different, and the courts make custody determinations using a series of factors, always keeping in mind the best interest of the child(ren).
Child Custody in Virginia
Generally speaking, there are two types of child custody in Virginia – legal custody and physical custody.
- Legal Custody – The ability to make decisions about how the child is raised.
- Physical Custody – The day-to-day care for your child, where your child sleeps at night and spends their days.
These can be further specified and catered to the circumstances of each case. Depending on the situation, the court or the parties can agree to sole or shared legal custody. There are various types of physical custody arrangements which can go by many names.
The courts use the terms “sole” (often called primary, where one parent has the child for more than 275 days per year), “shared” (each parent has the child or children for more than 90 days per year), and “split” (children are split between households, i.e. Mom has one child and Dad has the other) to classify a custodial arrangement for the purposes of calculating child support.
An experienced child custody lawyer will work towards an arrangement that answers the desires of the client and the child(ren) while paying attention to the legal realities of the case. To properly advocate the needs of your child during this difficult time, it’s imperative to have experienced legal counsel on your side.
What the Courts Consider Regarding Child Custody in Virginia
Primarily, custody arrangements are designed prioritizing the interests of the child, depending on the child’s age. An experienced child custody lawyer will compare the facts of the case and measure them against Virginia’s Best Interests of Child Statute. There are many factors considered by the courts when putting together a custody arrangement for a family:
- Child’s age
- Mental and physical condition of both the child and parents
- The relationship each parent has with the child
- How able each parent is to meet the needs of the child
- Developmental needs of each child
- History of family abuse or neglect
- The role each parent has played in the child’s life up to that point in time
- The assessment of each parent’s parenting style and how that impacts the child
- The ability of both parents to cooperate in issues regarding the child
To ensure your child’s needs are best reflected in your custody arrangement, contact the Parks Ziegler trusted family law attorneys for legal guidance.
Joint Arrangements for Child Custody in Virginia
Creating a custody arrangement that allows a smooth transition for the children to get back into a normal routine is a top priority for parents going through a divorce. A popular custody arrangement for divorce cases where the relationship is relatively amicable between both parents and the children is joint custody.
In joint custody, both parents are responsible for the wellbeing of the child. In addition, both parents share the ability to make decisions that impact the child. As stated above, there are two types of custody that can be applied to joint child custody in Virginia.
- Joint legal custody: The child may reside with a primary parent, but important decisions for the child are made jointly between both parents. This is the more common custody arrangement for a court to order.
- Joint physical custody: The child physically splits their time between the two parents. For example, the child alternates staying with each parent every week, or spending a holiday break with one parent.
Who else has child custody rights in Virginia?
In Virginia law, there are certain cases where the child may be better off living with other family members besides their parents. For example, if one or both parents is incarcerated, the child may be better off staying with grandparents or other family members long term. Virginia law allows grandparents, stepparents, and other blood relatives to win custody battles over natural parents; however, it is extremely difficult to win a case like this.
Virginia recognizes “persons of legitimate interest” as people who can petition to court for visitation and custody rights. These people include:
- Former stepparents
- Other family members (blood)
Visitation Schedules in Virginia
When a custody order is drafted, a visitation schedule will be created for the parents to decide where the child will stay for weekends, holidays, vacations, etc. A visitation schedule will lay out how parents split transportation costs and other child support funds, set holiday dates, and designate a set place for parent exchanges. The goal of these schedules are to dissolve arguments and courtroom battles before they can begin. It’s common for visitation schedules to last until the child is 18.
Visitation schedules can be created for one parent or both, depending on the case, and the schedules can put limits on a parent’s visitation rights. Virginia law allows each parent to have a minimum of one visitation night a week and alternating weekends; however, a court may limit a child’s visitation rights through supervised visitation.
Visitation schedules don’t always pan out smoothly for every family. They can be difficult for both the parent and the child to adjust to. Parents who deny and deliberately disobey a court ordered visitation schedule can face a large fine, even jail time. In addition, if a noncustodial parent is refused visitation from a custodial parent, modifications to the custody and visitation orders can be made—it’s possible for custody to be changed to another parent.
Divorce is mentally straining on everyone, especially the children involved. At Parks Ziegler, our divorce lawyers will work tirelessly to provide high-quality legal assistance, so your children receive constant financial support throughout the divorce procedure.
As can be expected, if you have children with your spouse, the divorce process will likely take longer to negotiate. As mentioned above, the separation period is twelve months, even if the parties reach an agreement. Likewise, the child custody arrangement will have an impact on the financial issues for the family, as the calculation of child custody support can depend on other factors such as spousal support and the division of property that produces income.
Calculating child support in Virginia
Your children will always be the most important people in your life, and we understand that you will go to any length to ensure their well-being in a divorce procedure. When involved in child support cases, our experienced divorce lawyers will help you understand the relevant legal factors that are in play, how they may impact the case, and advise the best path forward for your situation.
Child support is determined primarily from four main factors
- The custodial schedule
- Costs of work-related to childcare
- The gross income of each party
- The costs of medical insurance for the children
Our experienced family law lawyers will work to establish the child custody arrangement best suited for your family!
If you or a loved one needs assistance in a custody negotiation, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys today. Call 888-691-9319 or fill out this short form to get started.