One of the factors to consider when getting a divorce is what custody arrangement is best for your child. There are different kinds of custodial arrangements you can pursue, including a physical custody arrangement. Physical custody is a term typically used to talk about the home in which the child primarily resides. For example, a mother has primary physical custody, that simply means that the children spend more nights sleeping in the mom’s home than in the dad’s home. If you are going through a divorce and would like to know more about custodial arrangements, get in touch with a Fairfax physical custody lawyer. A knowledgeable custody attorney can work to ensure a positive outcome for you.

Contested Elements of Physical Custody Trials

It is rather difficult even for well-meaning and cooperative parents sometimes to come up with a schedule of which nights the children will be with each parent. Even more often, sometimes a Fairfax physical custody lawyer will see parents get hung up on the assignment or the title of primary physical custodian because they perceive it as making one parent more important than the other. When parents are hung up on who has primary physical custody, they often put together a schedule and indicate that it is considered shared physical custody. The assignment of primary physical custody does not make that parent have any more rights or importance legally, but that is often how it plays out.

Financial Responsibilities

Physical custody brings with it the financial responsibility of taking care of the children with regard to shelter, food, clothes, etc. The parent who does not have the primary physical custody assignment has the same financial responsibilities. The expectation in the law is that both parents are going to provide financial resources to meet the needs of the children.

If a person has sole physical custody, it might mean the amount of child support paid by the non-custodial parent is higher, but there is an expectation that both parents provide financially for the needs of the children.

If a parent shows the court that there has been a material change of circumstances in the life of the child and that material change warrants a modification of the schedule, then physical custody can be modified by the court. This can happen at any time there is such a showing up until the time when the child is 18.

Relationship Between Physical Custody and Tax Status

The Internal Revenue Service has a number of regulations related to the presumption of who can claim a child as a tax exemption. The default is that a parent who has the child in his or her care more than half of the year gets to claim that child. However, it is possible in certain circumstances for parties to agree or for courts to rule that the parties will take the tax deduction for the child or children in a different way than the IRS regulation presumes to be the correct way.

Impact of Physical Custody on Child Support Payments

Under Virginia law, when a non-custodial parent has the children in their care for 90-days or fewer, courts use a sole custody guideline. However, if the non-custodial parent has 91 or more days with the child or children during the year, the courts use a different guideline called a shared custody guideline. The difference between these two guidelines are that in the shared custody guideline, the parties’ incomes and other financial aspects are taken into consideration, but the parties’ respective time shares with the children are also taken into consideration. Thus, a non-custodial parent who has the children for, say, 100 days a year might pay more than the non-custodial parent who has the children for 150 days each year.

Does the Parent Who Spends Less Time With the Child Have to Pay More?

Sometimes more financial support is required from the parent who spends less time with the child. When child support is determined, one of the factors considered in many circumstances is how much time the non-primary parent spends. There is a difference in the child support calculation for a situation where the non-primary parent spends fewer than 91 custodial days with the child or children in a given year. That particular calculation will generate a higher support obligation than the shared guideline, which is applied when the non-primary parent has 91 or more days with a child.

If the non-primary parent has more custodial time with the child or children, it is likely that their child support obligation will be lower than if that parent spends fewer than 91 custodial days with the child(ren). However, the expectation on which the support guideline is based will often anticipate a higher financial contribution for the primary physical custodian assuming that the parents’ incomes and other considered factors are comparable.

Value of a Lawyer

There is no clear-cut formula set out for the court on how to decide custody. Therefore, it is important to have an attorney in a custody case so the parties seeking custody have the benefit of that attorney’s experience relating to what judges tend to think is important to consider, to what certain judges tend to do in terms of custodial situations, and to receive the best advice possible about how to handle child-related matters, particularly when there is a custody case pending in the court.

Divorce is difficult enough. It can be even more difficult when a child is involved. Of course, all parties want what is best for the child, but it can be difficult to agree on what the best kind of custodial arrangement would be. A Fairfax physical county lawyer can explain the advantages and disadvantages of each type of custody arrangement. Contact a skilled attorney who can help you agree on a custody arrangement that works best for you.