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What types of child custody arrangements are in Virginia?

Child custody is one of the most important topics that must be settled during the process of divorce. While most Virginia residents are familiar with the concepts of joint and sole custody, Virginia does also recognize other types of custodial arrangements for children of a divorce. But, what are all the types of custody arrangements that are recognized in Virginia?

By far, the most common type of Virginia child custody arrangement is joint legal custody. This means that both parents, together, make all of the decisions about their child's development and growth. This includes education, medical care and religious needs.

The other most familiar type of child custody in Virginia is sole custody. This means that a court decides that only one parent will have physical custody of the child and be responsible for all of the decisions regarding that child's development. The other parent, on the other hand, will not have physical custody of the child, but that parent will be allowed to visit the child at specific, agreed upon times.

Virginia also recognizes joint physical custody of a child. This type of custody means that both parents will spend a significant amount of time with their child. Depending on the situation, the child may alternate living with each parent on a weekly or even bi-weekly basis.

Two other types of custody used in Virginia are split custody and the bird's nest. Split custody is employed when a marriage has produced more than one child and each parent is then given legal custody of at least one child.

Alternatively, bird's nest custody means that the child stays at one physical location and both parents take turns living with the child. Parents are usually awarded joint legal physical custody in situations like this.

Child custody can be an essential component of a divorce, and it should always have the best interests of the child in mind. Nonetheless, any Virginia resident who is considering seeking a divorce may want to speak with a divorce attorney to discover which of Virginia's different types of child custody arrangements works best for them.

Source:, "Separation and divorce information," accessed on Nov. 10, 2015

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