Divorce is tough. But it can be significantly harder when children are involved. Not only are the usual issues present – dividing assets, sorting out finances – but there’s also custody and the children’s welfare to consider.
When deciding on a custody arrangement after divorce, it’s always important to take the children’s best interests into consideration. But how to go about that is different for every family.
Types of custody
In Virginia there are three types of custody: joint legal custody, joint physical custody and sole custody.
- Joint legal custody: Both parents are responsible for the care and authority of the children regardless of where they physically live.
- Joint physical custody: Parents share the children’s custody and care.
- Sole custody: Only one parent has physical custody and has the right to make decisions for the children. The other parent may seek visitation rights.
How is custody determined?
If the parents have not come to a mutually agreed upon decision regarding custody after the divorce, the Virginia courts will determine custody based on the children’s "best interests."
Ten factors considered by the courts in determining children’s best interests include:
- The children’s age and physical and mental condition, with consideration given to developmental needs
- Each parent’s age and physical and mental condition
- The relationship between each parent and each child, with consideration given to each parent’s ability to best address the children’s needs
- The needs of the children, especially considering relationships with extended family and siblings
- Each parent’s future role
- The willingness of each parent to support the children’s relationship with the other parent
- The ability and willingness of each parent to maintain a close and caring relationship with the children
- The preference of the children, within reason
- History of family abuse or sexual abuse
- Any other factors the court deems relevant in determining custody
Determining what’s best for your family can be difficult when emotions run high. As such, navigating custody issues and determining the best interests of the children can prove to be very difficult. However, understanding the legal process and how the law directs courts and parents can help you feel more confident as you navigate child-related matters.