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Divorced parents arguing about child custody

Child Custody FAQ 

Safi, Duran & Chim, PLLC  May 20, 2024

When it comes to parenting, few topics are as emotionally charged or complex as child custody. At Safi, Duran & Chim, PLLC, we understand that the well-being of your children is your top priority. Therefore, we’ve compiled an FAQ guide on child custody to offer clarity and guidance for parents facing these challenging circumstances. 

What are the different types of child custody?

Child custody encompasses who has the legal responsibility for a child and can be categorized primarily into two types: physical and legal custody. Physical custody determines where the child will live, while legal custody pertains to decisions about the child’s upbringing, including education, healthcare, and religious instruction.

These can be further divided into sole or joint arrangements. 

How do courts determine custody? 

Courts consider several factors when determining custody, all centered around the best interests of the child. These factors include, but aren’t limited to, the parents' mental and physical health, the child's relationship with each parent, each parent's ability to provide for the child's needs, and any history of domestic violence.  

Can custody arrangements be modified? 

Yes. Custody arrangements can be modified if there's a significant change in circumstances affecting the child's well-being. Either parent can request a modification, but they must demonstrate to the court that the change is in the best interest of the child. 

What is joint custody? 

Joint custody means both parents share the responsibility for raising their child. This can include joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both. It allows for a more balanced involvement in the child's life, encouraging the child to maintain strong relationships with both parents. 

What does sole custody mean for both the parent and child? 

Sole custody means one parent is granted the exclusive right to make significant decisions about the child’s life or is the primary or sole caretaker of the child. For the parent, it means bearing the responsibility of making essential decisions alone. For the child, it may involve living primarily with one parent while possibly having visitation with the other. 

How does visitation work if one parent is awarded sole custody?

When sole custody is awarded, the non-custodial parent usually retains the right to visitation. These scheduled visits are intended to maintain the parent-child relationship. The visitation schedule can be mutually agreed upon by the parents or, if necessary, determined by the court. 

Are children allowed to choose which parent to live with?

In Virginia, there is no fixed age at which a child can decide which parent to live with. However, the preferences of a child of sufficient age and capacity may be considered by the court as part of the overall assessment of the child’s best interest. 

What role does a child's preference play in custody decisions?

While a child’s preference is not the deciding factor, courts may consider it among other factors, particularly if the child demonstrates the maturity to make a reasoned choice. The weight given to a child’s preference can vary based on the child’s age, maturity, and the specifics of the custody case. 

How can parents make a custody arrangement without going to court?

Parents can agree on custody arrangements through negotiation, mediation, or collaborative law. This often involves drafting a parenting plan that outlines the specifics of custody, visitation, and parental responsibilities. The plan can then be submitted to the court for approval, making it legally binding. 

What is a parenting plan, and why is it important?

A parenting plan is a document that outlines how parents will raise their child following separation or divorce. It covers living arrangements, education, healthcare, and how decisions will be made. It's crucial because it provides a clear roadmap for co-parenting, reducing conflict and ensuring that both parents understand their roles and responsibilities. 

How does relocation affect custody arrangements?

Relocation can significantly impact custody arrangements, especially if the move would make it difficult for the other parent to maintain a relationship with their child. A parent wishing to relocate with the child must typically obtain consent from the other parent or petition the court for permission, proving that the move is in the child’s best interest. 

What happens if one parent does not adhere to the custody agreement?

If one parent violates the custody agreement, the other parent can file a motion with the court requesting enforcement. The court may then take various actions, such as modifying the custody arrangement, adjusting visitation schedules, or, in extreme cases, altering custody rights. 

Get Your Questions Answered

At Safi, Duran & Chim, PLLC, our dedicated team is here to guide you through every step of your custody matter, ensuring your rights and those of your children are protected. Situated in Fairfax, Virginia, we serve clients in Fairfax County, Loudon County, Prince William County, Arlington County, and Clark County.  

Seeking clarity on child custody matters is essential for safeguarding the interests and well-being of both the parents and the children involved. We offer personalized advice tailored to your unique family situation. 

Reach out today to start a conversation about how we can support you during this time.