There are two types of custody, legal and physical. Legal custody is about who makes decisions for a child. Physical custody is what determines each parent’s time with the child.

When parents have joint legal custody, it means they have equal say over major decisions concerning a child such as health care, education, activities, religion, etc. When one parent has sole legal custody, they get the final say on these decisions. Most custody cases and divorces end with the parents having joint legal custody but, in many cases, one parent is awarded sole legal custody.


Factors that Determine Legal Custody

There are many factors that determine legal custody but the two most important are 1) do the parents have significant disagreements over major decisions involving the child, and 2) can the parents effectively communicate with each other. If either or both of these are a problem, one parent may get sole legal custody. Otherwise, most parents get joint legal custody.

Joint physical custody is where the parties share equal or significantly close amounts of time. In Virginia, it’s known more often as “shared” custody and defined as each parent having 90 or more 24 periods per year with the child. Usually, one party has primary physical custody (or the majority of the time with the child). Cases where parents have equal time are usually decided that way by agreement of the parents.


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At WhitbeckBennett, we’re committed to protecting what matters most to you. If you are going through a divorce or custody case, contact us today to find out how we can help.