Types Of Custodial Arrangements In Virginia
Virginia law allows for several different types of custodial arrangements. It is important for any party going through a custody case to understand the differences and similarities between these different types of custody.
Sole Custody. With “sole custody,” one parent assumes the major role in the physical, emotional, and moral development of the child. The custodial parent has primary authority to make all major decisions affecting the child, who lives primarily with this parent. Sole custody is defined under Virginia Code Section 20-124.1 as an arrangement whereby “one person retains responsibility for the care and control of a child and has primary authority to make decisions concerning the child.”
Joint Custody. In a “joint custody” arrangement, both parents assume responsibility for the physical, moral, and emotional development of the child, and there are shared rights and responsibilities for making decisions that affect the child. Virginia Code Section 20-124.1 provides:
“Joint custody” means (i) joint legal custody where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child even though the child’s primary residence may be with only one parent, (ii) joint physical custody where both parents share physical and custodial care of the child or (iii) any combination of joint legal and joint physical custody which the court deems to be in the best interest of the child.
Shared Custody. Virginia Code Section 20-108.2(G)(3) states that the shared custody child support guidelines will only apply when each parent has “physical custody” of a child for more than 90 days. Under these “shared support” guidelines, the primary custodian will typically receive less child support than under the regular child support guidelines. It is therefore important to understand how days are calculated for purposes of the “90 day rule.”
Virginia Code Section 20-108.2(G)(3) states that a “day,” for purposes of application of the shared custody child support guidelines,
…means a period of twenty-four hours; however, where the parent who has the fewer number of overnight periods during the year has an overnight period with a child, but has physical custody of the shared child for less than twenty-four hours during such overnight period, there is a presumption that each parent shall be allocated one-half of a day of custody for that period.
Examples of Calculation of Days in Shared Support Cases.
- A parent has visitation with a child every other weekend, from 6:00 p.m. on Friday until 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. This equals 52 days: 2 days each visitation period (two consecutive 24-hour periods) x 26 weeks.
- The same parent also has an overnight visit with a child every Wednesday night, from 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday until 8:00 a.m. on Thursday. This equals 26 days: .5 days each week (for the overnight visitation, less than 24 hours) x 52 weeks.
- Thus, this parent is up to 78 days total (52 + 26), before consideration of any holidays or extended time in the summer.
The shared custody support guidelines may not apply when a parent who has 90 days of visitation has failed to exercise them. In addition, the parents themselves may agree not to apply the shared custody child support guidelines even though the 90-day threshold has been met.
Split Custody. In a split custody arrangement, each parent has primary or sole custody of one or more of the children. Virginia Code Section 20-108.2(G)(2) explains that split custody, for child support purposes, is an arrangement in which “a parent is a custodial parent to the children in that parent’s family unit and is a noncustodial parent to the children in the other parent’s family unit.”
Divided Custody. The term “divided custody” describes the status of a child who lives alternately with one parent and then the other for specified periods of time, with each parent having primary custody rights while the child resides with that parent.