New Virginia joint custody law probably changes nothing -- except maybe hearts and minds and expectations
"When parents split, new Virginia law will make it easier to get joint custody," Saleen Martin writes in the Virginian-Pilot. Looking at what the final version of the bill actually contains, I just don't see how it changes anything. But it is nice to think so, and if articles like Martin's change the public's idea of what is in the normal range, that can eventually affect litigants' and judges' attitudes, which already have changed a lot in that direction in the 22 years I've practiced.
The language added to the Code is: ""The court shall consider and may award joint legal, joint physical, or sole custody, and there shall be no presumption in favor of any form of custody."
The original language of the proposal actually had some meat in it: "The consideration of "joint physical custody" means the court shall consider custody and visitation arrangements that are reasonably constructed to maximize a child's time with each parent to the greatest extent possible in the child's best interests."
"There shall be a presumption, rebuttable by a preponderance of evidence, that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interest of the child. If a deviation from equal parenting time is warranted, the court shall construct a parenting time schedule which maximizes the time each parent or de facto custodian has with the child and is consistent with ensuring the child's welfare."