Children frequently become the forgotten parties when their parents split up. Co-parenting arrangements only work when each parent commits to making them work. Family law attorneys know that friction and animosity between parents may cause co-parenting arrangements to fail. Parents willing to focus on the best interests of their children may find co-parenting to be possible even when they hate each other.
What Does “Co-Parenting” Really Mean?
Before discussing how parents at war with each other can make co-parenting arrangements work, it helps to understand the terminology used by child custody attorneys in Virginia. Virginia child custody laws make reference to legal and physical custody.
Legal custody refers to the ability of one or both parents to make decisions regarding the care and control of a child. This may include decisions about a child’s medical and dental care, religion, and education. Couples may be granted joint legal custody and share the authority to make important decisions, or they may agree upon or a court may award sole legal custody to only one parent.
The legal custody of a child is not the same as physical custody. When divorce attorneys in Virginia discuss physical custody, it refers to the living arrangements for a child. Joint physical custody involves parents splitting the time a child resides with each of them. Sole physical custody results in the child residing in the home of one parent with the other parent having visitation or parenting time with the child.
Child custody arrangements usually try to maintain the relationship between parents and their children with an opportunity for both parents to be involved in making child-rearing decisions. Joint legal custody under Virginia law that allows both parents to have a say in making important decisions affecting their children would be what most people mean when referring to a co-parenting arrangement.
The fact that two parents cannot get along with each other could make it impossible for them to reach agreement on important decisions affecting the lives of their children. When that happens, it may be up to the courts to decide whether the existing custody arrangement should be changed.
Child Custody and the Best Interests of the Children
Judges in Newport News and other local municipal family law courts resolve child custody disputes or approve custody agreements reached by the child custody attorneys for the parents. They strive to achieve a custody arrangement that meets the best interests of the child rather than focus on demands made by one or both of the parents. Virginia law allows courts to award sole or joint custody as long as it achieves the following goals: