CUSTODY AND VISITATION


Few legal matters are more important than the custody of your children, and no one knows better what’s best for your kids than you.  That’s why we encourage negotiating settlements that puts the decision in the hands of the parents instead of in those of a judge.  Sometimes though, settlements just aren’t possible.  When that happens, we’re ready to vigorously pursue your custody rights in court.  

Custody

Whether you’re seeking sole, primary or shared physical custody, we can help you navigate the complex legal system to ensure you get what’s best for you and your children.  Virginia uses the “best interests of the child” standard for determining to which parent custody should be awarded.  These ten factors are weighed differently depending on the circumstances of each case.

Custody is best thought of in two different parts: physical custody and legal custody.  The latter refers to the person with whom the child resides, whereas the former refers to the decision-making authority that parents have over their children.

Physical custody

The definition of physical custody is fairly self-evident.  It can most easily be described as with whom the child is residing.  Generally speaking, the residence where the child spends nights defines which parent has physical custody.

Physical custody arrangements vary, but they will fall into one of three categories:
  1. sole custody
  2. primary physical custody, with visitation; or
  3. shared physical custody
If each parent has physical custody of the child for more than ninety (90) days, it is considered a shared physical custody arrangement.  In most other situations, one parent will be considered to have primary physical custody, and the other has visitation.  Although uncommon, there are also situations where sole custody is given to one parent without any visitation to the other.

Legal custody

The definition of legal custody is not nearly as self-evident, but it’s still a pretty straightforward concept.  It refers generally to the decisions affecting the care and control of the child.  When you think of legal custody, it’s sometimes easier to think of the big decisions in a child’s life; think whether a child should get vaccines, not whether your child has to eat his or her vegetables before getting dessert.

Legal custody can likewise be broken down into two separate categories:
  1. sole legal custody; or
  2. joint legal custody
In the overwhelming majority of cases, parents will share joint legal custody.

Visitation

Visitation is best understood as the flip side of the same coin as custody.  Courts use the same standard (again, “best interests of the child”) to determine a visitation schedule.  In most custodial arrangements, the parent who does not receive primary physical custody will receive visitation with the child(ren).  Each case is different, however, and the variations in visitation schedules are infinite.

Let us use our knowledge and experience to help you reach a custodial arrangement that best for you and your children.

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