August 31, 2019

All parents have rights and responsibilities regarding care for minor children, so custody and visitation will be a primary issue in a Virginia divorce case. Courts tend to favor a shared approach to these issues, so that the child enjoys a strong relationship with each parent. A report published by the Institute for Family Studies confirms the benefits of a co-parenting arrangement, stating that children in such environments experience better outcomes with respect to overall well-being.

To achieve these positive outcomes, state law encourages divorcing couples to come up with a parenting plan that addresses the various issues that arise in shared parenting. A Virginia child custody attorney can provide specific recommendations based upon your unique situation, but a checklist for parenting plans may offer some guidance. 

Joint Custody Issues: Under Virginia’s definition of joint custody, both parents share in the responsibility for the child’s care and each has the power to make decisions regarding important issues involved with raising him or her. Examples include determinations on education, health care, extracurricular activities, and others. The parenting plan should identify which decisions require mutual agreement, as well as how parents will go about resolving disputes.

Default Time Sharing: For practical purposes, one parent will likely have residential custody – which doesn’t not affect joint custody in terms of decision making. However, that does mean that the other parent has the right to parenting time, traditionally referred to as visitation. The parenting plan should address when and how the non-residential parent will exercise visitation rights on a routine, regular basis; usually, this will revolve around the school year. The plan should also mention the protocol for what happens when one parent cannot participate in time sharing because of work or personal reasons.

You should note that the arrangement of both custody and visitation must comply with the Virginia’s best interests of the child standard. Even if you can agree upon a parenting plan, a judge may still reject it if it doesn’t support the 10 factors listed in the statute. 

Time Sharing for Breaks and Holidays: Aside from the default provisions on time sharing, your parenting plan should include provisions regarding school breaks, holidays, and other special occasions. For example, it’s common for parents to alternate major holidays and the child’s birthday. Each parent should expect to have the child for his or her own birthday, plus respective Mother’s and Father’s Days.

Expectations Regarding Parental Communication: Probably the most critical component of the parenting plan is communication, because of the benefits for coordination and compromise on raising the child. You should set up specific parameters for how often you discuss child-related issues and what happens in the event of an emergency, as well as many other matters.

Contact a Virginia Child Custody Lawyer About Your Case

To learn more about parenting plans and how to structure an arrangement that works for your family, please contact Cravens & Noll PC to claim your initial consultation. Our family law attorneys represent clients throughout Central and Western Virginia from our offices in Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Harrisonburg. We can provide additional information after reviewing the details of your case.


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