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Is it realistic to ask for sole custody in a Virginia divorce?

When you decide that you will file for divorce, you have to pick your priorities. If you have children with your spouse, then a favorable custody order is probably going to be your number one concern.

You don’t want to miss out on important moments with your children or need to endure too much stress when it comes to co-parenting with your ex. Especially if you do most of the parental work already, you might find yourself wondering whether you could ask the court for sole custody.

Parent preferences are not the top concern for the courts

Although you might like to live with your children all of the time, it’s probable that your ex would like that exact same outcome. Realistically, parents benefit from having time off and support, but it can be hard to recognize that when deciding what to ask for in an upcoming divorce.  Even if one parent has the majority of the custodial time (primary physical custody), the other will usually have some visitation.

You might think that asking for as much parenting time as possible is the best approach, however, you need to consider how the judge will look at your custody situation. Their biggest concern will be the best interests of your children.

If they see that you don’t want to work with your ex, they may worry about what that means for co-parenting in the future. Unless you have a strong and convincing reason to ask for sole custody, a judge is unlikely to approve such a request.

When does sole custody become an option?

There are unique situations in which a judge may determine that sole custody is what is in the best interests of the children. Generally, these situations will involve abuse, neglect or extreme instability.

If your ex has left the children unattended, if they have issues with addiction or if you have documentation of previous abuse that they either directed at the children or that the children witnessed, the courts may agree that sole custody is in the best interest of the children. Even then, courts may look for ways to rehabilitate the non-custodial parent to give them custodial time in the future.

In the majority of cases, the most likely outcome is some degree of shared custody with both parents having parenting time and even decision-making authority over the children.

Understanding what kind of custody order is likely can help you make more reasonable plans when strategizing for your upcoming divorce in Virginia.