Sole, joint, legal, primary, split, shared…….
What type of custody do I have and what type am I seeking?
There are two types of child custody in Virginia child custody law: Legal Custody and Physical Custody.
Legal custody refers to the right of a parent or guardian to make decisions regarding their child’s life and rearing. Most commonly, these decisions are those concerning their child’s education, religious practice and medical care. The court usually awards joint legal custody to the parents, meaning that each parent is equally entitled to make these decisions regarding their children’s upbringing. Sole legal custody is where one parent has the sole discretion in this decision-making and may or may not consider the opinion and input of the other parent. A parent or guardian may be awarded joint legal custody of their child even though their child does not live with them. Joint legal custody also allows that non-custodial parent to have full access to their child’s medical and school records without having to contact or receive permission from the custodial parent.
Physical custody determines where and with whom the child resides. A parent can have sole physical custody meaning that the child lives only with them and the other parent has no visitation rights. Primary physical custody is the usual arrangement where the child lives with one parent (the custodial parent) and the other parent (non-custodial parent) typically has some sort of exclusive visitation and parenting time. Parents can have shared physical custody meaning that the child lives with both parents, either with a 50/50 split, or with each parent for a substantial period throughout the year (greater than 90 days for each parent). Split physical custody is a situation dealing with multiple children where one or more of the children live with one parent and one or more of the other children live with the other parent.
The most common child custody arrangement in Virginia is joint legal custody/primary physical custody. However, depending on your particular circumstances, one of the other custody classifications may be appropriate.
It is important to know what type of custody you are seeking prior to filing for child custody and visitation, particularly in regards to the legal custody. Many parents believe they want “sole custody”, when in reality what they really want is for the child to live with them, or primary physical custody. An experienced family law and child custody attorney can help you in coming to a decision on what is best for your situation based on the specific facts of your case.