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Legal Information: Virginia


December 4, 2020

What are the pros and cons of getting a custody order?

Getting a custody order from a court can give you certain legal rights. Getting a custody order can give you:

  • The right to make decisions about your child
  • The right to have physical custody of your child (to have your child live with you)

Without a custody order, it is possible that you may not have these legal rights, even if you are the parent who takes care of the child every day.

Also, your legal rights without a custody order may depend on whether or not you are married to the other parent.  

However, there are reasons people choose not to get a custody order from a court:

  • Some parents decide not to get a custody order because they don’t want to get the courts involved, and have an informal agreement that works well for them.
  • Some parents may think going to court will make the other parent mad, or they are worried that the court may award custody or visitation to the other parent.     

If you have concerns, you may want to talk to a lawyer or a local domestic violence advocate to get more information and help in figuring out what is the best decision for you.  You can find links and contact information for resources in your area on our VA Advocates and Shelters page and the VA Finding a Lawyer page.

Child support considerations: Some people think they should file for custody so they can get child support.  While custody and child support are related, you do not necessarily need a custody order to get child support.  A custody order will not automatically give you child support. See Who can get child support? for more details.

We strongly recommend talking to a lawyer who can help you think through if filing for custody would be best for you, depending on the facts of your situation.  You can find legal help by clicking on the VA Finding a Lawyer page.