There are two types of child custody in Virginia.
Legal custody and Physical custody.
A person who is granted legal custody of a child has the responsibility and the authority to make major decisions concerning the child. These responsibilities and authorities can include decisions about medical care, religious involvement and educational placements.
Often, the courts will rule that the parents of a child shall have joint legal custody of a child. This means that the parents should work together to make these major decisions regarding the child. Even if the parents are not able to actually work together for the benefit of their child, if they have joint legal custody they must inform the other parent about any important decisions that are on the horizon and give the other parent the opportunity to have a say in that decision. If the parents have joint legal custody and they cannot come to an agreement on a particular subject, the parent who has primary physical custody gets to make the final decision after notifying the other parent and listening to their thought process.
If the parents cannot work together at all for the benefit of the child, the courts can award legal custody to only one parent.
A person who is granted physical custody of a child has the responsibility for the day-to-day care and control of the child.
In Virginia, the courts generally rule that one person will have primary physical custody of the child.
Generally, the primary address of the child is the address of the person who has been granted primary physical custody of the child. This address is used primarily for purposes of enrollment in public schools.
There are also rare situations where the parents of a child are awarded joint physical custody of a child, but this type of situation requires that the parents live very close to each other so the child can easily get to and from school and friends, and that the parents get along well in order to provide the child with consistent rules.
Virginia also has a type of arrangement which is commonly called ‘shared custody’. This arrangement occurs when the court grants primary physical custody of the child to one parent, but the other parent has extended visitation which results in the child being in his or her care for more than 90 days in a year. Those 90 days should be counted as 24 hour periods and not just that the parent sees the child for a portion of a day for 90 or more days in a year.
What is ‘sole custody’?
Sole custody is awarded by the court when the court feels that one person should have all of the responsibility and authority for the care of the child both as a legal custodian and as a physical custodian.
In this type of situation, the court will usually grant legal custody to one person and also grant physical custody to that same person.
Why custody can be important
A custody determination is important because it gives the authority and responsibility for the child to one or both parents, which provides much needed stability for the child.
It is also important because the custody determination lets everyone know who has the authority to make decisions regarding the child.
Physical custody is also used as a factor in determining child support obligations with the non-custodial parent generally ordered to pay a support amount to the custodial parent.
This is just a small sampling of information regarding Child Custody in Virginia.
Perhaps you can find the answer to your question in one of our blog posts about Child Custody in Virginia.
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