Custody and Family Law

WHAT IS SOLE CUSTODY? Sole custody means that one of the parents has the major role in the physical, emotional and moral upbringing of the child. This parent is referred to as the custodial parent. The custodial parent is obligated and has the right to make all decisions concerning the child, who lives primarily with this parent.

WHAT IS JOINT CUSTODY? Joint custody is defined in Virginia Code Section §20-124.1:(i) Joint legal custody where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child even though the child’s primary residence may be with only one parent, (ii) Joint physical custody where both parents share physical and custodial care of the child, or (iii) any combination of joint legal and joint physical custody which the Court deems to be in the best interest of the child.

In a custody/visitation dispute, an experienced attorney will recommend attempting to negotiate a fair settlement before going to Court. Custody litigation creates emotional difficulties for everyone involved and often can be destructive to family relationships.

HOW DOES THE COURT DETERMINE WHICH PARENT WILL BE GRANTED CUSTODY? There are a variety of factors that the Court considers. These factors are outlined in Virginia Code Section §20-124.3. Some of these factors include the following: relationship between each parent and child; the needs of the child; the role each parent has played and will play in the care of the child; and any history of family abuse. The standard the Court uses is Abest interest of the child.

DOES THE COURT FAVOR ONE PARENT OVER THE OTHER? No. The Court looks at the facts of each case to determine what is in the best interest of the child.

WHAT IF THE PARENT WHO HAS CUSTODY DECIDES TO MOVE OUT OF STATE? This can only be accomplished with the approval of the Court or by agreement of the parties. The Court will hear all the evidence and then determine whether the move would be in the best interest of the child. If the Court determines that the move would not be in the child’s best interest, then the parent would not be permitted to take the child. There are Virginia cases that have been decided both ways.

CAN GRANDPARENTS BE GRANTED VISITATION RIGHTS? Yes. The Court can grant grandparents visitation. In many cases, the grandparents have played an integral role in the child’s life. The Court wants to minimize the disruption in the child’s life and do anything that would ensure stability.

I have been practicing family law for over fourteen years. I look forward to hearing from you if you should need legal assistance in this area.