Will I get custody if I have a bigger, nicer house?

That’s not exactly the question I got this week.  Instead, the actual question was about whether parents with shared physical custody needed to have comparable living arrangements.  Although I must admit that I’ve had the question that is the title of this blog post in the past.

The short answer to both of these questions is ‘NO’.

There is no requirement in VA that the children be given their own rooms, or that they be provided a home with a yard for outside play.  Also, there is no requirement in a shared custody arrangement that the homes be comparable.

Each of the homes must be ‘appropriate’ for the children.  But appropriate can encompass a lot of differences.  The main thing that is reviewed is whether the child has a safe place to sleep (so we generally look for a bed in a bedroom instead of a recliner in the living room), whether the home appears to be safe (no hanging open wires or holes in the walls), whether the home is relatively neat and clean (although ‘messy’ may be ok, dirty or filthy is usually not ok)….basically safety issues.  It is not necessary to have separate bedrooms for each of the children, although we would tend to discourage putting children of opposite sexes in the same room once one of them reaches the age of puberty.  Again, safety issues.

I know that when I grew up we had a three bedroom home with a ‘parent’ bedroom, a ‘girl’ bedroom and a ‘boy’ bedroom with the ‘baby’ staying in the parent room until he or she was able to consistently sleep through the night so as not to interrupt the other siblings.  From my experience this was the norm in my community and very few children had their own bedroom, unless they were the only child of that gender in the home.

There are also many cultural differences and what is acceptable in one culture is not necessarily acceptable in another, but that is a personal choice of the parent as long as the child is safe.

A big yard is also not required, so long as the parent has the ability to take the children to a place where they can have outside play.  To be quite honest, many families do not take advantage of their backyards for playtime and instead the children may spend more time at a park where they can play with their friends.

The relative financial position of the parents and the ability of one parent to provide a more luxurious home environment is not as important as the interaction between the parent and the child.  We’ve all seen children who have lots of toys and really enjoy playing with a box.  Also, financial disparity is addressed through child support, not custody and visitation.

What does the Commonwealth of Virginia look at when determining custody?  I’ve written a couple of blog posts here and here that go into the details of what the courts consider.  And of course you can review the actual code section here.

Bottom line?  The courts don’t really care who has the bigger home or the nicer furniture or the best car.  Assuming that the child’s safety is not an issue, what is important is the interaction of the child and the parent.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

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