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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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Is Sole Custody an Option in Virginia?


While the courts prefer that both parents are involved in a child’s life, the most important determining factor on custody is what is in “the best interest” of the child. If there is reason for the court to only award custody to one parent, it will. It’s important to note that there are two types of custody — physical and legal. In order to obtain sole custody in Virginia, the court would have to award you both physical and legal custody. Even if you are granted sole custody, the other parent is typically granted visitation rights in most cases.

What Does Sole Legal Custody Mean?

If the court awards you both legal and physical custody, it means you are the one who has the authority to make all major decisions for your child. Your child will also be living full time with you and you will be their caretaker. Unless the other parent has been declared unfit or is abusive and there is a total termination of parental rights, he or she may be granted visitation rights. If there is visitation granted, the court may dictate where and when the visits take place and whether the visits must be supervised or not.

If the court awards sole legal custody, there had to have been a compelling reason for the court to determine that the other parent’s ability to make sound decisions in their child’s best interests was compromised. The courts may award sole legal custody when one parent denies the other parent access to the child or alienates him or her. In a case where there is a complete communication breakdown and the couple cannot agree on anything, or one parent refuses to communicate, the court may also decide to award sole legal custody.

What Does Sole Physical Custody Mean?

Sole physical custody in Virginia means that the non-custodial parent has 89 or less 24-hour periods with the child per year.  Awarding sole physical custody where the non-custodial parent has no time is also done rather infrequently. The courts do not like to completely sever a parent’s right to have access to their children. Even in situations where one parent is unfit due to mental health issues, addiction, or even abuse, a court may still award restricted visitation under supervision. 

How to Get Custody in Virginia

To get custody, if there is not an existing order on file, you have to first petition the court. If there is an existing custody order in place, you must file a Motion to Amend or Review Order in the original court that issued the existing custody order. The court may order a variety of things, including mediation, a psychological evaluation of each parent, a separate lawyer for your child, and/or a temporary custody order.

If you and your ex are unable to reach a settlement after the preliminary hearing, then another hearing will be set for up to several months out. Each situation is unique and may change, which is why it’s important to retain a skilled Virginia child custody attorney who can walk you through the process.

Contact a Virginia Family Law Attorney

If you need assistance with child custody issues, or any other Virginia law matters, speak with a Leesburg family law Attorney. Contact the skilled team at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC today at 703-997-4982 to schedule a consultation.


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Governor Northam’s Executive Order 53 provides that businesses that offer professional rather than retail services may remain open. Our firm is continuing to operate to ensure you and your family have advocates available for whatever legal issue you face. For clients who prefer, we can arrange meeting by Zoom or other video-conferencing. We are also implementing internal procedures to provide a safe environment in the office. Please contact us at 703-777-1795 or schedule an appointment today!