Is Shared Custody Being Given Greater Consideration by Virginia’s Court?

Patricia TichenorLegal

shared custody discussion with daughter and her parents

Shared custody, or joint custody, is a great option for divorced or separated parents who want to provide their minor child(ren) with equal time with both parents. The Virginia court system allows this arrangement to be considered and worked out among parents if it’s in the best interest of the child.

Here’s what the Commonwealth of Virginia’s legal code says about custody arrangements, as well as the benefits of shared custody for the child, parents, and the family as a whole.

What do Virginia’s custody laws say?

Recently, Virginia revised Code Section 20-124.2 to emphasize that judges can order any type of custody schedule they deem fit, rather than favoring sole or joint custody. They are allowed to set a schedule that maximizes each parent’s time with the children while balancing whether the schedule serves the child’s best interests.

The revision to Code Section 20-124.2 (end of section B) states the court should simply choose the best arrangement for the child’s needs when determining custody. This section was revised to best fit the needs of a child and prioritize equal roles of parents in their children’s lives after a divorce.

It is still critical to put on the proper facts for your custody case so that the judge sees that both parents have and should continue to play an equal role in their children’s upbringing. This is especially important in the post-COVID world when remote work arrangements are more common, and parents are able to physically be with their children more often.

Why shared custody is important

For the child

Shared custody provides children with the advantages of having both their parents available to them. It leads to a better, more balanced upbringing since children will be able to develop strong relationships with both parents. Additionally, children gain access to the family and friends of both parents, and each parent can bring their own strengths to their children’s lives throughout their most important developmental years.

Studies have shown that children are happier when they have a close relationship with both of their parents as opposed to a bond with just one. Shared custody also boosts the quality time the parents spend with their children, as each moment becomes more precious since it’s limited compared to full custody.

For the parents

Sharing parenting time with your ex-spouse will force you into a routine, which will also give you cause to plan ahead. Additionally, it makes it easier for each parent to move on individually and prioritize their own lives, as they know the other parent will be able to take on some of the responsibilities of parenting. In other words, all the pressure won’t fall on them.

Joint custody also provides opportunities for cost-sharing on everyday items. And even though this may not be your ideal situation, it will provide you with more time for yourself, and once you have a set schedule and can plan for extended overnight stays, you’ll be able to figure out different things to do.

For the family as a whole

Children from divorced parents are better adjusted when they live with both parents at different homes or spend significant time with each of them. Studies show that children from shared-custody homes have fewer behavioral and emotional problems, higher self-esteem, better family relationships, and higher school performance than those in sole-custody situations. Couples who have shared custody arrangements also tend to experience less conflict; studies actually show that joint custody reduces parental conflict over time. However, it is important to note that joint custody is not a one size fits all solution.

Get help with your child custody case

Facing a child custody case in Virginia? Schedule a free 15-minute consultation with My Legal Case Coach to discuss your circumstances and find out if our DIY legal case form packets and virtual coaching sessions are a good fit for your situation.