How does Virginia determine child custody?
Photo of Attorneys T. Noel Brooks and Jesse Baez walking outside.
Photo of T. Noel Brooks and Jesse Baez

How does Virginia determine child custody?

On Behalf of | Apr 5, 2024 | Family Law

Custody is one of the most sensitive topics among parents going through a divorce. Can one parent lose custody? Can parents settle this matter outside court?

Here is how child custody is determined in Virginia:

Natural and proper custodians

Virginia law presumes both parents to be the natural and proper custodians of a child. This means divorcing parents can agree on a parenting plan and submit it to court to be validated.

Court-ordered custody

In some circumstances, such as when parents can’t agree on what’s best for their child, when one parent can’t take care of the child or when someone believes the child is in danger from a parent, the court will consider the child’s best interest and give an order.

The court may award joint legal, joint physical or sole custody. With joint legal custody, both parents will retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child – they will both make decisions concerning the child, even though the child’s primary residence may be with one of them.

Parents awarded joint physical custody share physical and custodial care of their child. Sole custody gives one parent the primary responsibility to take care of the child.

Virginia courts value the importance of parent-child relationships, but if they determine it’s in the child’s best interest to award sole custody, they will do so. This is not uncommon in cases involving parents who are unable or unwilling to communicate effectively regarding what’s best for their child or when there is evidence that the child is in danger from one parent.

Further, if the court receives “clear and convincing” evidence that it’s in the child’s best interest to be taken care of by a non-parent, it may order so.

If you are a parent going through a divorce, be adequately informed about custody matters in the state to protect your relationship with your child.