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  • John C. Whitbeck, Jr.


    John C. Whitbeck, Jr. practices in the following areas of law: Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Mediation, Arbitration, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Criminal Law, DUI/DWI, Reckless Driving, All Felonies, All Misdemeanors, Juvenile Crimes, Mental Health Law, Civil and Business Litigation, Construction Litigation, Education Law, Election Law, Debt Collection, Consumer and Lemon Law.

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  • Ruth M. McElroy


    Ruth M. McElroy practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Pre and Post Marital Agreements, Domestic Violence, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Juvenile Crimes, Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes, Traffic Offenses, Debt Collection, Civil and Business Litigation. She serves the Virginia Court system as a Guardian ad litem.

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  • Jennifer D. Cisneros


    Jennifer D. Cisneros practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Estate Planning, Wills and Probate, Trusts, Civil and Business Litigation and Debt Collection.

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Creating a Parenting Plan in Virginia


If you are going through a divorce with children, creating a parenting plan or agreement can help you and your ex make the best decisions for them. It can help clarify any current issues, and discuss those that might arise in the future. Here are some elements to consider in your Parenting Agreement:

Custody Arrangements

Virginia allows for either joint or sole custody. Joint custody is where both you and your child’s other parent will share legal custody of your children. You are both responsible for your children’s needs and care. You can opt for joint custody even if your children only live with one of you most of the time.

If you specify joint physical custody, both of you will share physical and legal care of your children. It does not mean your children are required to spend the same amount of time at each of your homes to have joint physical custody.

Parenting plans that specify sole custody are declaring that only one parent will be responsible for the care and needs of the children. It also means whoever has sole custody has the top priority in making decisions that concern your children. You can also have an agreement that includes joint legal custody, but only sole physical custody.

What Other Information to Include

Next to custody arrangements, you should discuss how you and your ex will handle the primary responsibilities when it comes to raising your children. Some important topics to address in your agreement include:

  • Visitation schedule
  • How parents will resolve any disputes regarding the parenting agreement or visitation schedule
  • Options to change the agreement as your children get older
  • Provisions regarding custody arrangements

What Courts Look at With Parenting Plans

The courts will only approve parenting plans that factor in what is best for your children. They will consider a number of factors, including:

  • Existing relationship between each parent and the children
  • Mental and physical health of each parent and the children
  • What role each parent has maintained in care and upbringing of the children
  • Each parent’s age and the children’s age(s)
  • Changing developmental needs of the children
  • Is there a history of one parent denying the other visitation with the children?
  • The preference of the children on where they live
  • Prior sexual abuse or family abuse
  • Each parent’s willingness to cooperate with the other and work towards resolving disputes
  • Each parent’s potential ability to keep a continuing and close relationship with the children

What Happens When Parents Can’t Agree?

If you and your ex cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court can order you to attend a mediation prior to your court date. Mediation involves both sides meeting with a neutral third party in hopes of reaching a resolution. If one cannot be reached, then you will continue with your court hearing.

Retaining a Virginia Family Law Attorney

If you are going through a divorce or a custody battle, you need to speak with a skilled Virginia child custody lawyer. Contact the team at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC at 703-997-4982 to schedule a consultation.

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