Every family in Virginia going through a custody dispute has unique needs that a judge must address when creating a custody order. Judges should factor in a parent’s existing relationship with the children, the preferences of older children and even the willingness of the parent to work with their ex when making custody determinations.
With so many variables, it can be hard to predict what will actually occur in your own litigated custody matter. What is the most common outcome in contested Virginia custody matters?
Shared custody is the most common solution
A Virginia family law judge will want to make custody decisions that they believe are in the best interests of the children while also upholding the rights of the parents. The average child requires the love and support of both parents for optimal social and emotional development, so family law judges prefer to have parents split custody whenever feasible.
Parents will typically share both legal custody and physical custody. The term physical custody refers to parenting time or the obligation to provide for and be with the children. Legal custody confers decision-making authority to parents, allowing them to secure medical treatment, enroll the children at school or take them to attend religious services.
Unless there are unusual factors that complicate your family situation, a judge is likely to split parenting time or physical custody between you and your ex. They will also expect the two of you to share legal custody, cooperating when necessary to make decisions that will be good for your children. In some cases, judges will designate one parent to have ultimate decision-making authority in specific matters if they deem such rules necessary for the family circumstances.
Shared parenting time doesn’t mean a 50/50 split
It’s important to recognize that you can share custody and have decision-making authority even if you have a very demanding job and cannot be physically present with your children half of the time. Creativity and cooperation are key when co-parenting.
If you want to make shared custody arrangements work for your family, you need to keep your focus on what is best for the children and try to reframe your relationship with your ex to be less contentious. The right approach to co-parenting will take a lot of the stress out of the situation for the two of you and for your children.
Understanding what to expect in litigated custody matters might help you prepare for court or prompt you to sit down to negotiate arrangements with your ex.