How to Create a Child Custody Plan in Virginia

When a child’s parents do not live together or when they stop living together, child custody becomes an issue. In Virginia, custody issues are generally decided by a judge in the local Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Because a judge does not know a child or a family as well as parents do, it is often in the best interests of everyone involved for the parents to negotiate a parenting plan outside of court. If this plan is determined to be in the best interests of a child, a judge will usually approve it.

Virginia does not require parents to create a parenting plan, but many judges will suggest that parents and their attorneys work with a mediator to create a plan. The decision to work with the other parent to create an agreement is important because it allows you both to have some control over decision making, rather than leaving all the decisions to a judge. Some of the most important agreements to put into a plan include:

  • Custody. The parents should decide whether to share custody or to give sole custody to one parent. Physical and legal custody are separate issues. Physical custody determines who the child lives with. Legal custody determines who gets to make important decisions for the child.
  • Scheduling. The parents can decide where the child will be during the week, on weekends and on holidays. Working together to create this schedule allows for flexibility so that a child can spend holidays with different parents on alternating years or have a separate arrangement during summer breaks.
  • Visitation. If the child will be residing solely with one parent, the parties can agree on a schedule for visitation. A Manassas family law attorney can help you negotiate this schedule.
  • Education and activities. The plan can address where the child should go to school and the process by which the parents will decide whether to allow the child to begin new extracurricular activities that interfere with existing parenting schedules.
  • Expenses. While custody and child support are different topics, they are frequently intertwined when it comes to a child’s activities and expenses. Deciding how expenses will be dealt with ahead of time can reduce conflict later and make things easier for your child.

These agreements frequently cover other topics, such as how the child will be disciplined, the involvement of grandparents, whether the child will be raised with a particular religious tradition, and how the parents will communicate with each other.

The family law attorneys at The Daugherty Law Firm, P.C. help parents in and around Manassas, VA create parenting plans during divorces and other custody disputes. We work to create plans that are fair and represent the interests of the children involved. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us online or call us at [ln::phone].


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