The easiest way to explain physical custody in Virginia begins with a 2.04-ounce Kit Kat bar, the kind that gives you four little sub-wafers in a single, bigger bar. Sole physical custody? One parent gets the whole Kit Kat but lets the other parent hold it once in a while. Split physical custody? Each parent gets two sub-wafers. Shared physical custody? One parent gets the entire Kit Kat for a predetermined time, then gives the whole bar to the other parent for the same amount of time.

Who Determines Shared Physical Custody?

Unlikely as this sounds, your children really determine shared, sole or split physical custody. How is that possible? They can barely tie their shoes, you say. They slam their bedroom doors, you say. Yet Virginia law requires the judges of Virginia’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts to handle child custody issues in the best interest of the children. A judge cannot ignore evidence that you and your ex-wife both want to maintain strong ties to your children, since Code of Virginia (§ 20-124.3) mandates it. (Obviously the children alone do not make the final decision.)

If you and your ex-wife did not work out child custody through a property settlement agreement (if you two did not yet make adult decisions about your children), you will have to present your case to a judge in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, which, sadly, does not go in for the letter abbreviation (JDRDC). Because of limited space, we shall therefore refrain from referring to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (really, it’s exhausting) anymore, and simply point out that a certain court’s judge determines who gets the Kit Kat bar.

If you and your ex-wife do not wish to cede decisions about your children’s futures to a judge of a certain kind of Virginia court (psst — think JDRDC!), your ex-wife’s attorney and your attorney need to hash out custody. Shared physical custody is an excellent way to keep both parents deeply involved in the children’s lives, even if a particular court’s judge (we think you know who) did not order it.

Novel Ideas for Sharing Physical Custody of a Child

Many modern Virginia parents strive for joint or shared physical custody for the obvious benefits to their children’s psyches and stability. Some novel approaches and interesting financial strategies have emerged from shared physical custody.

One inventive method is to keep the family home while the divorced parents invest in a nearby, shared apartment. Each parent stays in the apartment during the other parent’s time in the family home. Mom is in the apartment while Dad is in the home one week, then the two parents switch for the next week. This allows the children to grow up in as normal a household as they had before the divorce, while the two parents can live their separate lives.

Shared Custody & Child Support

Getting the two parents as close as possible to 50-50 time with the children reduces the potential child support payments for the larger wage earner. Say you earn more than your ex-wife and are ordered by the court to pay her child support. By having shared physical custody, you can demonstrate to the court that you are both bearing an equal burden in caring for the kids; your support payments to her could be considerably less than if she had sole physical custody.

Less Than Or Equal To

If your ex-wife gets three wafers of the Kit Kat and you only get one measly wafer, that is not really shared physical custody. For Virginia custodial cases, most judges (yes, yes, of that court, though it could also be a Circuit court) prefer to see the split go no more than 65-35, so that both parents are deeply involved in genuinely sharing the responsibilities and joys of raising their children. Unfortunately a Kit Kat bar cannot break apart easily into 65-35 to illustrate our point. (Though, we suppose, you can get close, going for 67-33 by breaking one sub-wafer into thirds and then dispensing one whole sub-wafer and one-third of a sub-wafer to yourself, leaving your wife with two whole sub-wafers and the two little chunks from — but we seem to have lost the thread.)

The goal is to prevent one parent from having much less than a third of the parenting time with his or her own kids; the other parent may also feel unduly saddled to have them two-thirds of the time.

In true shared physical custody, your ex-wife cannot claim custody for three months running, then ship the kids off to you for a solid three months. The goal is to provide “frequent and continuing contact” with both Mom and Dad. A more reasonable arrangement: alternating weeks or fortnights (a word we get to use entirely too infrequently).

Call a Custody Lawyer for Men

One call to The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184 can connect you with a real Virginia family law attorney. You can ask questions about joint physical custody, strategies to reduce child support payments, the best way to divide a Kit Kat bar, and more. Rely on real legal advice delivered by real custody lawyers for dads. Rely on The Firm For Men.

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