Child Custody and Visitation

When you are separating or divorcing, child custody decisions are among the most challenging decisions you will have to make. After all, property and assets are replaceable, but time with your children is not.

How custody and visitation arrangements are determined

In Virginia, all custody decisions are made in the best interest of the child. Reaching an agreement is usually the preferred outcome because parents should know better than judges what is best for their children. Parents are urged to reach a custody agreement on their own, if possible, in order to craft an arrangement that will work best for the parents and their children. Our experienced Virginia family law attorneys can explain your legal rights and options for custody and parenting arrangements, assist in negotiating an agreement with your spouse, and help you to make wise and informed decisions.

It is important to consider that any arrangement that parties agree upon and truly want to make work, will work.

When parents disagree on custodial/visitation agreements

In many cases, an agreement on custodial arrangements is not possible. When that happens, we will be your advocates in court and put our extensive experience to work for you.

In the Virginia, any legal parent of a child may petition the court for custody of a child regardless of the marital status of the parents, although a father may need to prove paternity in certain instances.

When parents are not able to decide custody issues on their own, the court will make custody decisions based on the best interest of the child. It is almost always in the best interest of the child to have access to both of his or her parents. Usually, the custody arrangement will involve some type of visitation unless there is a compelling reason why one parent should have limited or no access to the children.

In determining the best interests of the child, the court will examine:

  • Where the child is currently living
  • Who has been responsible for the care of the child for the longest recent period
  • Who has been the primary caregiver over the course of the child’s life
  • Which parent can provide a more stable environment for the child
  • Which parent is retaining possession of the family home
  • Which parent has best demonstrated a willingness to put the needs of the child first
  • Whether either parent is involved in a new romantic relationship
  • Which parent’s employment situation is most stable and/or allows the most time with the child
  • Which parent has a consistent plan for caring for the child
  • The tendency of each parent to permit contact with the other parent and the extended family
  • Who can provide the safest environment for the child
  • Who can provide the best physical home environment for the child
  • The reasonable preference of a child of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference.

The court will weigh each of these factors in determining the best custodial arrangement. This arrangement might involve joint custody (parents split time with the child), primary custody with visitation, or sole custody.

How 50/50 custody sharing works

It is common for divorcing parents to want to spend as much time with their children as possible. Therefore, if both parents are equally fit to provide a caring and nurturing environment, a shared or joint custody arrangement is an option. When sharing custody, however, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of a 50/50 custody sharing schedule versus providing the child with a primary home base.

When parents share custody of children, as opposed to one parent being the primary custodian, the child may live with each parent 50 percent of the time. For instance, a child may spend one week with one parent and the next week with the other parent or spend half the week at each parent’s home.

A 50/50 custody arrangement can provide a child with equal access to both parents, which is often beneficial for the child. No parent will have more time than the other and the child can retain an equal relationship with both mom and dad. However, a 50/50 custody arrangement requires a great deal of moving and upheaval for a child and he or she may lack stability or a place to call home.

A 50/50 arrangement may work best in cases where the parents live close to each other and the child is able to easily move from house to house. Parents who opt for a 50/50 arrangement may make the transition easier by switching on a school day so the child is dropped off by one parent and picked up by another. The child should have clothing and other personal items at each house so he or she is not continually packing and unpacking every week.

How primary home base custody works

A home base arrangement, on the other hand, makes one parent’s home the child’s primary home. The child visits the house of the other parent on a regular basis, but less than 50 percent of the time. While this arrangement deprives the child of equal time with each parent, it can provide more stability and permanence in a child’s routine. A home base arrangement may work best for children who are uncomfortable with moving from place to place or in situations where one parent has more time to devote to childcare and meeting the needs of the child. Learning two sets of rules (i.e. bedtime, discipline, chores) can be very difficult on a child.

In either custody arrangement, it is important for parents to pay attention to the needs of their children and remain aware of signs of stress or dissatisfaction with the custody arrangement.

At Nichols Zauzig Sandler P.C., we believe in custody decisions that are in the best interest of your children. We will work with you to devise a custody schedule that allows you access to your children while providing the stable and nurturing environment that your children need.

Getting legal help

To get the legal help you need in a Virginia custody case, contact the experienced Virginia divorce attorneys at Nichols Zauzig Sandler P.C. to schedule a consultation. With three convenient locations in Woodbridge, Manassas and Stafford, we are available to clients throughout Northern Virginia.​

Ready to get in touch? Contact Us Today
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RESOURCES

Top Divorce Lawyer Cassandra Chin named AAML National Membership Chair

Cassandra Chin named AAML National Membership Committee Chair

| Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce and Separation, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
Cassandra Chin, a Partner with Nichols Zauzig Sandler, was appointed as National Membership Chair of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) at their annual meeting last week in Chicago. With this…
Best Lawyers® names Nichols Zauzig "Best Law Firm" Top Tier in Northern Virginia

Nichols Zauzig named 2019 U.S. News-Best Lawyers® Best Law Firm

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Automobile Accidents, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Pornography, Child Support, Criminal Defense, Divorce and Separation, Domestic Violence, Drug Offenses, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce, Grandparent Custody/Visitation, International Matrimonial Law, Malicious Wounding & Violent Offenses, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Probation Violation, Protective Orders, Rights Restoration, Search, Seizure & Miranda Rights, Sex Crimes Against Children, Sex Offenses, Theft Offenses, Traumatic Brain Injury, Trucking Accidents, Wrongful Death | No Comments
For the 9th consecutive year, Nichols Zauzig Sandler is honored to be ranked in Tier 1 of the 2019 U.S. News - Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms" list. Earning Tier…
Top Divorce Attorney Andrew Taylor Joins Nichols Zauzig Woodbridge

Family Law Attorney J. Andrew Taylor Joins Nichols Zauzig Sandler

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
Nichols Zauzig Sandler is pleased to welcome Family Law Attorney J. Andrew Taylor. Mr. Taylor brings 11 years experience focusing on the practice of family law in the Manassas and…

Nichols Zauzig Sandler partners named Super Lawyers for 12th year

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Automobile Accidents, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Criminal Defense, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce, Grandparent Custody/Visitation, International Matrimonial Law, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, Trucking Accidents, Uncategorized, Wrongful Death | No Comments
For the 12th consecutive year, Charles J. Zauzig, Paul F. Nichols and Betty Moore Sandler have been named Super Lawyers in Virginia. Cassandra Chin has been selected for the third…
Parenting during child custody divorce

How to parent during divorce: Virginia attorneys advise

| Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce and Separation | No Comments
https://youtu.be/w5wASVXhEkc Full of practical advice from Virginia divorce attorneys, judges and law professors, this acclaimed video offers advice to parents on how to co-parent during the divorce process. The goal?…
Divorce Attorney Paul F. Nichols Manassas VA

New Virginia laws impact spousal support and child custody

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
  Beginning July 1, 2018, several changes in spousal support and joint custody took effect in Virginia. Modification of spousal support If there is a material change in circumstances, a…
Cassandra Chin, Divorce and family law lawyer Manassas

Considering separation but can’t afford two households in Virginia?

| Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
By: Cassandra Chin, AAML, Divorce and Family Law Attorney Living separately under the same roof is a growing trend in Northern Virginia divorce cases. Many families are just making ends…
Divorce Attorney Paul F. Nichols Manassas VA

Is a child’s age a factor in custody in Virginia?

| Child Custody and Visitation, Family Law/Divorce, Grandparent Custody/Visitation | No Comments
By: Paul F. Nichols, AAML, Partner with Nichols Zauzig Sandler, P.C. In child custody cases, I am frequently asked whether or not the child’s age is a factor with a…

Is a post-nuptial agreement right for you?

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
By: Betty Moore Sandler, AAML, IAFL, Partner with Nichols Zauzig Sandler, P.C More couples are entering into post-marital agreements than ever before, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. (AAML) In…
Divorce Attorney Paul F. Nichols Manassas VA

How is child support determined in Virginia?

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
In Virginia, both parents are expected to pay for the financial support of their children, regardless of whether the parents have ever been married or whether the non-custodial parent has…
Ready to get in touch? Contact Us Today

RESOURCES

Top Divorce Lawyer Cassandra Chin named AAML National Membership Chair

Cassandra Chin named AAML National Membership Committee Chair

| Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce and Separation, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
Cassandra Chin, a Partner with Nichols Zauzig Sandler, was appointed as National Membership Chair of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) at their annual meeting last week in Chicago. With this…
Best Lawyers® names Nichols Zauzig "Best Law Firm" Top Tier in Northern Virginia

Nichols Zauzig named 2019 U.S. News-Best Lawyers® Best Law Firm

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Automobile Accidents, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Pornography, Child Support, Criminal Defense, Divorce and Separation, Domestic Violence, Drug Offenses, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce, Grandparent Custody/Visitation, International Matrimonial Law, Malicious Wounding & Violent Offenses, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Probation Violation, Protective Orders, Rights Restoration, Search, Seizure & Miranda Rights, Sex Crimes Against Children, Sex Offenses, Theft Offenses, Traumatic Brain Injury, Trucking Accidents, Wrongful Death | No Comments
For the 9th consecutive year, Nichols Zauzig Sandler is honored to be ranked in Tier 1 of the 2019 U.S. News - Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms" list. Earning Tier…
Top Divorce Attorney Andrew Taylor Joins Nichols Zauzig Woodbridge

Family Law Attorney J. Andrew Taylor Joins Nichols Zauzig Sandler

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
Nichols Zauzig Sandler is pleased to welcome Family Law Attorney J. Andrew Taylor. Mr. Taylor brings 11 years experience focusing on the practice of family law in the Manassas and…

Nichols Zauzig Sandler partners named Super Lawyers for 12th year

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Automobile Accidents, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Criminal Defense, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce, Grandparent Custody/Visitation, International Matrimonial Law, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, Trucking Accidents, Uncategorized, Wrongful Death | No Comments
For the 12th consecutive year, Charles J. Zauzig, Paul F. Nichols and Betty Moore Sandler have been named Super Lawyers in Virginia. Cassandra Chin has been selected for the third…
Parenting during child custody divorce

How to parent during divorce: Virginia attorneys advise

| Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce and Separation | No Comments
https://youtu.be/w5wASVXhEkc Full of practical advice from Virginia divorce attorneys, judges and law professors, this acclaimed video offers advice to parents on how to co-parent during the divorce process. The goal?…
Divorce Attorney Paul F. Nichols Manassas VA

New Virginia laws impact spousal support and child custody

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
  Beginning July 1, 2018, several changes in spousal support and joint custody took effect in Virginia. Modification of spousal support If there is a material change in circumstances, a…
Cassandra Chin, Divorce and family law lawyer Manassas

Considering separation but can’t afford two households in Virginia?

| Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
By: Cassandra Chin, AAML, Divorce and Family Law Attorney Living separately under the same roof is a growing trend in Northern Virginia divorce cases. Many families are just making ends…
Divorce Attorney Paul F. Nichols Manassas VA

Is a child’s age a factor in custody in Virginia?

| Child Custody and Visitation, Family Law/Divorce, Grandparent Custody/Visitation | No Comments
By: Paul F. Nichols, AAML, Partner with Nichols Zauzig Sandler, P.C. In child custody cases, I am frequently asked whether or not the child’s age is a factor with a…

Is a post-nuptial agreement right for you?

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
By: Betty Moore Sandler, AAML, IAFL, Partner with Nichols Zauzig Sandler, P.C More couples are entering into post-marital agreements than ever before, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. (AAML) In…
Divorce Attorney Paul F. Nichols Manassas VA

How is child support determined in Virginia?

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
In Virginia, both parents are expected to pay for the financial support of their children, regardless of whether the parents have ever been married or whether the non-custodial parent has…