If you are a parent, one of the issues you are most concerned about in a divorce is how the relationship with your child will change. More than likely, you will be sharing parenting time with your former spouse after the divorce and not spending as much time with your child. Yet, you most likely are wondering how much time your child will be spending with your ex and how Virginia determines child custody arrangements.

Physical custody and legal custody

First, unless there is a court order otherwise, Virginia parents have equal rights for physical custody of their child. They don’t need to be married for that and neither the mother or father gets preferential treatment as to how child custody is determined. Also, more and more parents are being awarded joint physical custody, as well as joint legal custody.

Physical custody is the amount of time a child spends with each parent. Legal custody includes giving parents an equal say in decisions such as deciding what school the child will attend, what medical treatment the child will receive and what religion the child will be raised in.

Factors in custody decisions

Judges will evaluate several factors for deciding custody if you and your spouse can’t reach a child custody agreement. These include the following:

  • The age and mental condition of the child
  • The age and mental condition of each parent
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • The best interests and needs of the child
  • The willingness for each parent to support the child’s contact with the other parent
  • The willingness for each parent to foster a close relationship with the child
  • Any history of family abuse

Also, any parent who is shown to have an issue with alcohol abuse, drug abuse, mental illness or has prior criminal convictions may not receive shared custody and may only receive supervised visits with their child. Even if you are living with someone whom you are not married to after the divorce could impact your child custody ruling.

Working with a family law attorney can help you determine what a fair child custody agreement is and can help you if you have concerns about your former spouse receiving joint custody.