In Virginia and throughout the country, parents may be awarded either physical custody or legal custody to their children. In some cases, they will receive both types of custody. Legal custody gives a parent the right to make important decisions related to a son or daughter's health and general welfare. These decisions may involve the type of medical care a child receives or what religious practices he or she will be exposed to.
Parents may receive either sole or joint legal custody. Often, courts will award joint legal custody as it tends to be in the child's best interest. Sole legal custody may be granted in cases involving parents who are deemed to be unfit. A judge may declare a parent unfit because of a drug or alcohol problem or other issues that could call into question that individual's decision making ability.
If a parent receives sole legal custody, that parent will not need to consult the other before making key choices regarding that child's upbringing. When parents are granted joint legal custody, they must work together to do what is best for their son or daughter. It is important to note that a parent may be entitled to legal custody even if he or she is not granted physical custody of a child.
In a child custody matter, the primary objective is to do what is right for the child. Therefore, parents may not be granted physical or legal custody unless they can show a judge that they committed to meeting that objective. Conversely, an individual may be granted custody even if the other parent objects.