When filing for a divorce or legal separation, child custody is one of the main issues that a couple may face. Due to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, custody laws are very similar throughout the Unites States. In the state of Virginia, child custody, support and visitation are decided in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. The court takes the child’s best interest and own wishes into consideration when deciding on custody.
The following are the types of custody that may be granted in the state of Virginia:
Joint Legal Custody
- Joint legal custody, in accordance to the laws of Virginia, means that both parents have the right to make any major decisions that will affect the child. Decisions such as medical care, religious upbringing and education are made by both parents regardless of who the child is living with.
Joint Physical Custody
- When joint physical custody is granted, the child will live under the care of both parents based on an agreed upon schedule (alternating weeks, months etc.)
- In sole custody, only one parent has the legal right to make decisions that may affect the child. The child will reside with this parent while the other parent may reserve the right to visitation. Sole custody is not easily granted in Virginia. However, under certain circumstances, where the court finds that it is in the child’s best interest, sole custody may be granted. For example, if there is a complete breakdown of parental communication where parents cannot communicate with one another and come to an agreement on issues related to their children, sole custody is granted. It may also be granted if the court believes that a parent is unable to make appropriate decisions involving their child. Other circumstances that the court in Virginia has granted sole custody include:
- Child Abuse
- Drug Addiction
- Parental Alienation
Child Support is granted to provide the child with the same benefits he/she would have obtained if parents were still married or living within the same household. In the state of Virginia, both parents are required by law to pay a certain amount of money that should support the child and cover costs such as medical care, food, clothing etc. While both parents are obligated to make these payments, the parent with legal/physical custody is the only one allowed to demand child support. This is because the court automatically assumes that the custodial parent is already covering costs that involve childcare.
In Virginia, when sole legal custody is granted, there are usually terms of visitation put into place for the non-custodial parent. If both parents cannot come to an agreement on a schedule for visitation, a judge will enforce a schedule for them. Visitation days assigned by a judge are usually on special occasions (e.g. Christmas) and school breaks. Supervision may be required during visitation. Visitation may be refused if it is not in the child’s best interest. However, it is rare for the state of Virginia to demand that a parent completely cut ties with their child, even in cases that involve abuse, addiction or mental health issues.