When parents have a child together, they effectively commit to spending almost two decades combining their efforts to raise that child. If things go wrong in their relationship, then they may separate or divorce. At that point, it may be necessary to ask the courts to either approve or create a custody order.
A family law judge in Virginia has the authority to order parents to share decision-making authority and parenting time. Occasionally, they may also award one parent sole physical and legal custody, meaning that parent will have most of the time with the children and the right to make major decisions about their life.
Sole custody is relatively rare
Family law judges in Virginia want to make decisions that will be in the best interests of the children. Regardless of how negative and unhealthy the relationship between the parents may be, the children will usually want and need to have a lasting relationship with both of their parents.
For a judge to award one parent sole custody, the situation will need to be relatively unusual. Occasionally, a sole custody order is the result of the parents reaching an agreement. Either because of health issues or career demands, the adults in the family may recognize that only one of them has the time and mental ability to commit to being present for the children.
If the parents are not in agreement about the need for one adult to assume sole custody, then the judge’s decision will likely be the result of compelling evidence. Issues involving interpersonal violence, health challenges and extreme instability can potentially justify awarding one parent sole custody in Virginia.
Typically, a parent will require compelling evidence to convince the courts that there is a major issue impacting the other parent’s ability to care for the children. Medical and police records, witness statements and even financial reports can help one parent prove that there are concerning issues on the part of the other that might put the children at unnecessary risk.
Without either an agreement that sole custody is the best choice for the family or evidence strong enough to convince a judge of that fact, securing sole custody might be far more of a challenge than people initially realize. Those who understand the rules outlining parental rights and responsibilities in Virginia will have an easier time setting realistic expectations when preparing for custody hearings.
Learning about when sole custody is possible can help people plan their approach to custody matters or assuage their concerns about the risk of losing access to their children.