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As a parent just starting the divorce process, one of your main concerns may be about who will end up with custody of your children. Although many families benefit when parents collaborate to create a custody arrangement, sometimes effective collaboration is not possible. In case that happens, it can be helpful to know how a court makes child custody decisions.

Child custody options

There are several different custody options available to you in Virginia. They include joint legal custody, joint physical custody and sole custody.

Joint legal custody involves both parents retaining responsibility for the care and authority of the child, regardless of which parent the child lives with. Joint physical custody involves both parents sharing the physical custody and responsibility to care for the child.

Sole custody involves only one parent having physical custody of the child and the right to make all decisions about that child’s life. In this situation, the other parent may seek visitation.

In most situations, courts will award joint legal and joint physical custody. This is based on studies that have shown children tend to fare better after divorce when they can maintain relationships with both parents. Because of this, most courts assume it is not in the child’s best interest for the court to award sole custody.

How best interests are determined

The best interests of a child should be at the heart of any custody decision, including decisions the court makes. A court can consider any relevant factors when determining the child’s best interests. However, some factors the court typically considers, include:

  • The child’s age, physical condition, mental condition and developmental needs
  • Each parent’s age and mental condition
  • The relationship each parent has with the child
  • The likelihood each parent will support the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • The child’s preference

If a court will decide the custody of your children, it can be valuable to understand what options the court may consider and how decisions will be made. With a better understanding of how courts make child custody decisions, you will be better equipped to advocate for the best interests of your child.

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Roeder, Cochran, Phillips, PLLC

Roeder, Cochran, Phillips, PLLC
8280 Greensboro Dr.
Suite 550
McLean, VA 22102

Phone: 703-749-6050
Fax: 703-749-6027
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