Determining child custody arrangements can be the most difficult part of the divorce process for many Virginia couples. A family law attorney can help you navigate the divorce process and give your child the stability and consistency he or she needs once you are officially separated. The following post provides a summary of what you need to know about child custody.
Physical vs. legal custody
Physical custody and legal custody are two separate matters that courts must address during custody proceedings.
- If a parent has physical custody of the child, that means the child resides in their home and the parent is responsible for providing for the day-to-day needs of the child.
- If a parent has legal custody of the child, that means the parent is responsible for making decisions relating to the child’s upbringing. These decisions may relate to the child’s health, after-school activities, health, and/or religion.
Sole vs. joint custody
Nowadays, if a child has two parents who are willing and capable of providing them with a stable and loving environment, courts will generally award joint custody of the child. This means that both parents will share physical and legal custody of the child.
While the time spent with each parent may not be 50-50, it is likely that the child will reside with one parent on certain days and the other parent on other days. For example, a child may alternate households every other week, or spend weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other.
As for legal custody, it is likely that parents with joint legal custody will make decisions together when it comes to raising the child.
However, sometimes joint custody is just not a realistic option. In such cases, the court will award sole custody to one parent. One parent will have sole physical custody, meaning that the child will primarily reside with them, but the other parent may be entitled to parenting time or visitation. If that parent has sole legal custody, they will be solely responsible for making decisions relating to the child.
However, even if one parent has sole physical custody, the court may decide to award joint legal custody to keep both parents involved in major decisions involving the child, even if the child only lives with one parent.
Determining custody is a complicated matter and many issues may arise throughout the process that you did not initially anticipate. A family law attorney can help prepare you for these issues and ensure that your child is safe and well cared for.