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Virginians who wish to share custody of a child aided by new bill

This state may soon be following the lead of other states and scientific research by adopting a new standard for how a divorced parent will be able to spend time with a child. In the past, it was common for judges to award sole or primary custody of the children during the divorce proceedings. For Virginia parents who wish to share custody of a child, they will likely be pleased to learn about a new bill pending in the state legislature. 

The bill, known as HB 1351, asks family courts to consider whether joint custody will be in the best interests of the child. With the exception of cases of abuse, the research tends to support claims that shared custody is often in the best interests of a child. More than 20 states have already considered proposed laws to this effect, and the move is supported by at least 50 studies that endorse the arrangement as better for kids. 

What benefits can potentially come along with shared custody? It benefits kids, potentially reducing the problems of teen suicide, dropping out of high school, substance abuse or other behavioral disorders. The Virginia bill offers a flexible option, because it does not mandate an even split; it just encourages the time to be maximized with each parent. Another potential benefit is improving the child support collection rates. Studies show that a parent who is involved is more likely to pay support. 

For individuals who wish to share custody of a child, the bill is good news, but it has not yet passed into law. In the meantime, an individual in Virginia who wants shared custody may need to be prepared to make that argument in court. Many individuals facing this option have chosen to use the services of an experienced divorce attorney. 

Source:, "Christian Paasch column: Virginia's opportunity: shared parenting", Christian Paasch, Jan. 25, 2018

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