Skip to content



Child Custody And Visitation: Understanding Your Rights

For parents and children who are amid a dissolving family unit and divorce, the issue of where the children will live and how parents will share time with them is one of the most emotional and divisive. For children and parents alike, this issue can be stressful, sad, maddening, frustrating and depressing, which is why working with an experienced and compassionate Virginia child custody attorney and understanding Virginia’s child custody laws are essential when your family is going through a separation.

Nan M. Joseph and her staff care about the outcome of child custody arrangements and the best interests of your child. For decades, we have been advocating for children and parents who are involved in the family court system, and we can help you seek custody of your child during a separation from your spouse.

Types Of Child Custody Arrangements In Virginia

There are two types of child custody in Virginia, as well as a handful of different child custody arrangements. The two types of child custody are:

  • Physical custody. Physical custody refers to the parenting plan and schedule for physical care of the child.
  • Legal custody. Legal custody refers to parents’ legal decision-making powers over a child. For example, if one parent has the legal right to decide about a child’s education or health care, he/she has legal custody over a child. If parents have joint legal custody, they work together to make legal decisions for the child.
  • Physical and legal custody can be shared or sole, depending upon the best interests of the child and the desires and relationship of the parents. In many cases, parents will share legal custody of a child, but only one parent will have primary physical custody. Or parents may share both physical custody and legal custody equally. In other cases, one parent may maintain sole legal custody, parenting and physical custody of a child.

How Child Custody Determinations Are Made

You and your spouse, at the time of your separation or divorce, should form a parenting plan together that addresses where your child will live, how time with the child will be shared, who will have legal decision-making power, how disagreements regarding the child will be resolved, how the child will be transported from one parent’s home to the other and all other details relative to a child custody order. It is highly encouraged that for the benefit of everyone, you and your spouse collaborate to form this plan. While you may not be able to do it alone, mediation and legal support often makes it possible to negotiate parenting schedules without going to court.

If you and your spouse cannot reach a child custody arrangement on your own, even post-mediation, the judge presiding over your case will make the decision for you. This is often not ideal as it completely strips you of authority in the decision-making process, can be time consuming and is usually expensive. Custody cases are notoriously costly, both emotionally and financially.

If a judge must make a child custody determination, the judge is legally bound to make a decision based on the best interests of the child, based upon factors in the Virginia Code. To determine the best interests of the child, the court must weigh several factors, including:

  • The age of the child
  • The physical and mental condition of the child and each parent
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • How each parent has a positive involvement in the child’s life
  • How each parent accurately assesses and meets the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child
  • The needs of the child
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to foster a loving relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The preferences of the child if the child is old enough and mature enough to express such preference with understanding
  • The ability of parents to cooperate when resolving disputes
  • Whether domestic or sexual abuse has occurred in the home
  • The relationship that the child maintains with others in the home (such as siblings) and community
  • Any other factors that the court finds relevant

Seeking Custody Of Your Child

If you and your child’s other parent disagree about who should have custody of your child and must go to court, the process can be stressful, intensive and time-consuming. It is critical that you are represented by a competent and compassionate Virginia child custody lawyer who can help you understand how to prove to the judge that the child’s best interests are best served by living with you. Nan M. Joseph can help you identify evidence that suggests that you have acted as your child’s primary caregiver and that you are fit and able to continue providing for your child. We work with child psychologists, mental health professionals and a variety of witnesses such as your friends, family members, and the child’s teachers and counselors. Nan M. Joseph will work with you to build your strongest case and provide you with the representation you deserve.

If a child custody order has already been issued by the court and something has changed substantially in your life, the life of your child or the life of your child’s other parent, Nan M. Joseph can also assist you in seeking a modification of a child support order. Modification can be sought when both parents agree or when circumstances have changed significantly enough that modification is justified.

Contact Nan M. Joseph Today

At the Law Offices Of Nan M. Joseph, we care about you. We know how delicate and emotional child custody and family law matters can be, and we will handle your case with the utmost discretion and professionalism while also advocating aggressively for you and your family. To schedule a consultation with Nan M. Joseph today in Leesburg, please contact us online or by phone at 703-777-7740.


While this website provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call or complete the intake form below.

Fields marked with an * are required

  • Disclaimer: The use of the internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

AV®, AV Preeminent®, Martindale-Hubbell Distinguished and Martindale-Hubbell Notable are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell® is the facilitator of a peer-review rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ fall into two categories – legal ability and general ethical standards.