If you find yourself facing a child custody or visitation dispute in a Virginia family court, emotions may be running high and you may feel overwhelmed with the legal process. After all, this type of dispute involves your children and, for the most part, parents always want what is best for their children. Figuring out a child custody and visitation situation, however, is not easy at times. So, learning the basics of child custody and visitation in Virginia may help parents overcome their emotional burdens and answer at least some initial questions about the legal process.
Basics in family court
For starters, get to know some of the common legal terms you’ll likely be hearing throughout the court process: “legal custody”; “physical custody”; “joint custody”; and “sole custody.” These basics terms will probably come up in many child custody and visitation disputes.
“Legal custody” refers to which parent or guardian is responsible for making important decisions about the child’s life, such as, for example, where the child will go to school or church, or what type of medical care the child will receive. It can even include making decisions about the child’s extracurricular activities. “Physical custody” refers to where the child will live and spend time—with which parent will the child actually live?
Of course, as many of our readers probably know, “legal” and “physical” custody are usually shared between the parents in many cases. That is often what is referred to as “joint” custody—meaning that both parents share the responsibility for legal and physical custody through some arrangement. In rarer cases, “sole custody” may be ordered, which means that one parent or the other has the only right to make decisions regarding legal and physical custody. “Sole custody” is usually only ordered for serious reasons, such as a history of drug use or physical abuse from one of the parents.