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How is child custody decided in Virginia?

For parents facing divorce, one of the biggest concerns is how a divorce will impact your children. Your relationship with your children likely will change if you and your spouse split custody time. You may wonder how your child custody case will handled in Virginia. Who will decide how much custody time you will get versus your spouse?

Physical custody and legal custody

In Virginia, as in most states, parents have to settle two types of child custody. These are physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is how much time a child physically spends at each parent's house. Legal custody centers around making important decisions about how you and your former spouse raise your child. It includes the following:

  • Deciding on what school your child will attend
  • Making medical decisions for your child
  • Deciding who will provide childcare for your child
  • Deciding what religion to raise your child in

Most parents share both physical and legal custody of their children. Sometimes, one parent may have sole physical custody and share legal custody of the child. Less frequently, one parent will have both physical and legal custody of their child.

Deciding on custody

Divorcing parents often work through their child custody arrangement with their attorneys. If they go to court over child custody, the judge will evaluate what the best interests of the children are to determine custody. This includes looking at

  • The stability of each parent
  • How each parent will be able to meet the children's emotional and physical needs
  • If each parent can maintain the children's current routines
  • How old the children are
  • If the children's safety is compromised if parents share custody

For a better chance at receiving equal physical custody, or more than that, you must show that you are active in your children's education, their extracurricular activities and have provided them attentive and loving care.

If you think your children's safety would be in danger by sharing physical custody with your soon-to-be-ex, you need to consult an experienced family law attorney about seeking sole custody. You will need to prove to the court that you having sole custody is the right choice for your children.

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