How the legal system handles divorce and child custody has changed significantly over the past several decades, and parents in Virginia are more likely to share custody than was once the case. In the past, custody was often awarded to mothers on the assumption that they were the best caretakers for children. Mothers still get sole custody more than fathers do, but there is a shift toward more visitation time for fathers and more shared custody.
This is true even when the parents were never married. While married fathers with more assets are more likely to seek custody, courts tend to treat divorced and unmarried fathers in the same way. Fathers who have fewer assets are more likely to be successful at obtaining custody or visitation rights than they used to be.
Divorce became more widespread after people married young in the 1950s and 1960s and then sought to separate. This resulted in a shift toward divorce laws that made the process less difficult. As women began to work outside the home more and fathers took a greater role in the lives of their children, courts began to grant more time to fathers after a divorce. While legal custody is often presumed, equal physical custody can still present some practical difficulties in terms of the child moving back and forth during the week.
While limitations such as parents’ work schedules are taken into account when creating a schedule for custody and visitation, parents should also be prepared to accept the fact that the arrangement may inconvenience them. The idea behind custody and visitation is that it is designed in the best interests of the child. Older children may even want some input into the schedule themselves. Holidays and vacations should also be addressed in the custody agreement to avoid conflict later.