People often fantasize about making a clean break when they file for divorce. They want to wash their hands of their spouse and never see them again. However, that is not a very realistic goal for most spouses with children.
Unless there is a very unusual situation involving substance abuse, domestic violence or extreme health issues that affect someone’s parenting abilities, most parents divorcing or breaking up with underage children can expect to share custody. In fact, Virginia state law actually identifies two separate forms of custody that parents typically share when co-parenting.
What are the two kinds of custody?
People largely focus their custody concerns on physical custody. The parent who has physical custody at any given moment is the one currently spending time with the children and providing for their basic needs.
The parent who currently has physical custody would have to take the children to the hospital after a bicycle injury or pick them up from school when they get sent home due to disciplinary issues at 10:30 in the morning on a Tuesday. The parent with physical custody also has to provide shelter, food and other basic necessities for the children during their parenting time.
Parents have a lot of influence on who their children become in no small part because they have legal custody. They have the authority to make choices about healthcare matters, education and even socialization. Parents that share physical custody often share legal custody as well.
If certain decisions, like healthcare matters, are very important to you because of your religion or your profession, you may ask for more legal custody in certain areas or the final decision-making authority in some cases. Otherwise, parents who share physical custody often have to reach an agreement about matters involving a child’s future.
How to handle custody matters
The biggest issues when negotiating custody concerns in Virginia are often worries about one parent not seeing the children enough or intentionally harming the relationship the other has with the children. When you understand state law, you recognize that you can potentially defend your parental rights provided that you make the best interests of your children the focal point of all of your court arguments about custody issues.
Learning more about Virginia’s shared custody rules will help parents preparing for divorce negotiations or a hearing in family court.