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What are my child custody options if my spouse and I divorce?

On Behalf of | Aug 11, 2020 | Family Law

Sometimes couples in the Warrenton area decide that after spending years in a troubled marriage, staying together “for the kids,” just is not working and that it is for everyone’s benefit that they divorce. After all, children, pre-teens and teenagers can suffer when parents are constantly in conflict with one another. Naturally, one of the primary concerns divorcing parents may have is who will get the children.

There are various types of child custody arrangements in Virginia. First, it is important to note the difference between legal custody and physical custody.

What is legal custody?

Legal custody means having control over the major decisions that come with raising a child, regardless of with whom the child is residing. Oftentimes parents will share joint legal custody over the child, meaning they are both responsible for making key decisions regarding the child’s life, such as where the child will attend school, what religion the child will participate in and what medical care the child will receive. In some cases, if joint legal custody is not in the child’s best interests, one parent will have sole legal custody over the child.

What is physical custody?

Physical custody refers to with whom the child is residing and therefore which parent has control over the child’s day-to-day activities. Sometimes parents in Virginia share joint physical custody in which the child spends time living with each parent and each parent makes daily decisions about the child’s care.

Other times, one parent will be awarded sole physical custody over the child and the other parent will have visitation time with the child. For example, a parent might have visitation time with the child every-other weekend and one night a week.

Decisions are based on the best interests of the child

Ultimately, any child custody decisions will be based on the best interests of the child. Children have different needs at different ages, so the custody plan for a 7-year-old may look very different from the custody plan for a 12-year-old or 17-year-old. In the end, it is sometimes beneficial for parents going through a divorce to try to negotiate a workable child custody plan on their own. Settlements are oftentimes beneficial to all, both emotionally and financially. However, if a settlement is not possible, the matter may need to go before the court. In child custody cases it can help to have legal help from the start from a local firm like ours who knows the area judges and can provide sound representation.