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When parents divorce or separate, custody of the children is often their primary concern. Many people believe the anecdotal claim that mothers receive preferential treatment over fathers in family courts when it comes to custody. However, the Commonwealth of Virginia has laws that expressly forbid favoring one parent over the other. Rather, the court must consider all the relevant facts of each case.
If you are currently going through a divorce or separation, understanding which factors the courts consider when awarding custody can help you know what steps to take to best protect your rights and interests as a parent.
In the past, judges tended to award custody of young children to the mother as a matter of course. Historically, women spent more time in the home and were the children’s primary caregivers. This context may explain why many believe that the children’s mother gets custody more often than the father.
However, the current norm is that both men and women work full time and share domestic responsibilities. For this reason, judges make their custody decisions in a way that considers the family dynamic in a more balanced manner. They focus on what kind of arrangement will work for the child’s best interests.
When considering a custody case, the judge must make two decisions: which parent will have legal custody of the child and which parent will have physical custody of the child.
The parent with legal custody will have the right and responsibility to make significant decisions about the child’s rights. This will include decisions relating to the child’s healthcare and education.
The parent with physical custody will be the parent with whom the child lives and who provides care for the child daily.
Sometimes the same parent will be awarded both types of custody, and sometimes the responsibilities will be divided. It is also possible for judges to award joint legal and/or joint physical custody.
When making their decision, the judge will consideration the following factors:
Depending on the age of the child, the judge might take the child’s own preferences into account as well. However, because the primary consideration is the child’s best interests, the final decision might not always line up with the child’s preference.
Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful experiences a person can have. This is especially true if you have worries about whether you will be able to maintain custody of your child. The experienced child custody attorneys at Invictus Law understand the challenges you are currently facing. We have helped many clients navigate divorces and child custody battles in the past, and we will fight aggressively to protect your best interests as a parent. Call us today at 757-317-5125 or contact us online for a consultation.