After a divorce or the dissolution of a relationship, there are decisions to make regarding custody and visitation of minor children. Who will be the primary caregiver of the child? Will we share both legal and physical custody? What will the visitation rights be? The courts will have their own questions as well when making decisions regarding child custody and visitation. Take a look these FAQs and their answers to better understand the process.
What custody/visitation rights do parents in Virginia have before any court orders have been entered?In the absence of a court order, both parents have equal rights to the physical custody of their minor children and to make decisions on behalf of their children. The parties could agree on how to handle custody and visitation prior to the court hearing and have their agreement entered as a consent order. Alternatively, either party could file a motion for pendente lite relief and ask the court to enter a temporary order for custody and visitation to remain in effect until the court makes a final determination.
How do judges make decisions about child custody and visitation?Judges make child custody and visitation decisions based on the child’s best interests. Judges consider a variety of factors they believe to be important to determining the child’s best interests when making a decision. One important factor to the court in establishing most custody arrangements is which parent will be the most likely to see to it that the other parent remains a strong part of the child’s life.
What factors might be considered when awarding custody and visitation?Below you’ll find an extensive but not exhaustive list of potential factors. Keep in mind that the court may take into consideration any factors they believe to be relevant to the case and in the best interests of the child.
- Who is the current primary caregiver
- Living arrangements for each parent
- Which parent is better able financially to take care of the child
- What is the psychological and physical fitness of each parent
- What is the child’s preference
- Age and health of each parent
- Age, health, and gender of the child
- Religious views
- How close the parents live to each other
- How close they live to members of the child’s extended family
- Which parent lives closest to the child’s school and social circle
- Length of separation and where the child has been living
- Any prior abandonment or surrender of custody issues
What are the different types of court ordered custody?There are many different types of court ordered custody to be aware of:
- Legal custody: This type of custody includes rights and obligations to make decisions for the child regarding health care, education, religion, and other important matters.
- Physical custody: As it sounds, physical custody encompasses the rights and obligations to care for the child physically
- Temporary custody: This type of custody is granted while parents wait for the hearing. Also called Pendente Lite custody, it is made based on the child’s best interests and does not determine the final custody decision.
- Sole custody: The child has only one residence with one of the parents. Parents may receive sole physical custody, sole legal custody or both.
- Split custody: When 2 or more children are involved, one child lives with one parent and the other child lives with another parent.
- Joint legal custody: In this type of custody, both parents can make decisions with the same amount of legal rights and obligations.
- Shared physical custody: Parents share the physical custody of the child, alternating who cares for the child during set time periods.