In the majority of child custody cases in Virginia, courts prefer to award joint custody do the parents instead of awarding sole custody to one parent with visitation rights for the other. The caveat to these rulings, however, is that whatever the court’s final decree, it is in the best interest of the child. If you are going through any kind of custody situation, a parental rights lawyer Arlington VA families trust from May Law can help.
What Is Joint Custody?
The term “joint custody” almost always refers to legal custody, meaning important decisions about the children, as opposed to physical custody, which means the location where the children spend most of their time. Legal custody encompasses a variety of situations, including:
- Choice of physician and medical treatments
- Where the child will live
- Education decisions
- Religious upbringing
- Military enlistment or marriage decisions
In a pure joint custody arrangement, both parents have equal input into these issues, and they both hold an absolute veto over the other. Problems arise when one parent wishes to pursue a course of conduct that the other one absolutely opposes. The children cannot attend both public and private school, they cannot be raised both Catholic and Jewish, and the list goes on.
As a child custody lawyer Arlington VA clients recommend can explain, sole custody is not a good option in many cases, because both parents want to retain at least some level of input in these significant decisions. So, many cases deal with parties’ attempts to keep a deadlock from occurring.
Making It Work
Some orders have tried to use an input/decision approach: both parents have input but one makes the final decision. But some courts have rejected this method. The alternating-year approach, in which each parent has the final say in alternating years, has been similarly struck down.
The sphere approach has gained some traction recently; for example, Mother might make educational decisions and religious decisions belong to Father. But this method is imperfect, because the spheres may overlap. For example, church youth activities might take place at the same time as basketball practice.
To preserve joint custody, the best approach may be to make decisions in advance and incorporate them into the decree. So, instead of giving Mother or Father the right to determine residence, the decree can limit the children’s residence to a specific geo area and contiguous counties.
To approve a joint custody arrangement, judges also like to see evidence of cooperative co-parenting. If the decree is agreed and the proceedings relatively uncontested, a judge will probably approve a workable joint custody order. If the order is not workable or the divorce was acrimonious, judges may have issues with approving a joint custody arrangement if it appears the parents are unable to co-parent together peacefully.
Contact Our Firm Today
To learn how May Law can help, call our office to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an Arlington VA parental rights lawyer today.