In times past, it was often assumed that — in custody decisions — courts prefer to place children in the custody of their mother. The reasoning behind this notion was that the father was responsible for earning the family’s income and the mother was responsible for raising the children. In modern society, however, many of the traditional roles assigned by gender have become nonexistent. In Virginia, the laws pertaining to custody and visitation issues explicitly state that “there shall be no presumption or inference of law in favor of either.” If you are worried that your rights as a father to your children will not be or have not been honored, a Fairfax father’s rights lawyer can help you understand your legal options.
Understanding a Father’s Rights
While the law does not grant preference in custody decisions, it does consider which parent is the primary caregiver of the child. However, even being a primary caregiver is not a guarantee of custody, as there are other factors that are also considered. Additionally, case law in Virginia custody matters holds that ruling only in favor of primary caretakers unfairly places a premium on the quantity of time a parent spends with the child rather than the quality of the time spent. Virginia courts tend to prefer a custody and visitation agreement that provides both parents with the opportunity to spend time with the child.
As a father, you have a right to be involved in your child’s life and to receive fair consideration in matters concerning:
- Physical custody. Physical custody refers to which parent the child will primarily live with during the school year and which parent has the bulk of the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for the child. Virginia courts generally will award physical custody to one parent while allowing the other parent visitation. This decision is made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the child, including the stability of the home environment where the child will live, the availability of the parent to care for the child, a location that will allow the child to remain in the school that he or she is attending, and other personal considerations.
- Legal custody. This form of custody is the right of the parent to be involved with and to make parental decisions for the child, including the medical care he or she receives, the education of the child, the child’s religious upbringing, and other decisions. Normally, unless there is proof of abuse or neglect or the parents are unable to make decisions together, the court will award joint legal custody to both parents.
- Parenting time and visitation. As a father, you have the right to spend quality time with your child. Ensuring that you have adequate time with your child is a crucial part of your ability to parent that child.
- Non-custodial parenting. If you were not awarded physical or legal custody of your child, you still have the right to be informed of significant changes in your child’s life, including when that child moves out of state. With joint legal custody, such a move could not take place without your consent.
Protecting Father’s Rights in Fairfax
There are several things you can do to protect your rights as a father in Fairfax, including:
- If you are unmarried and believe you have fathered a child, you can register with the Putative Father Registry. Registering will allow you to be informed of adoption or termination proceedings involving the child.
- If you are military, you have special rights when you are deployed, including the right to delegate your visitation rights to someone else while you are deployed.
- You have the right to have an attorney assist you in determining if your rights are upheld in proposed custody agreements and to negotiate the provisions of the agreement in order to allow you more time with the child.
- You can request a modification of child support orders or custody agreements if there is a substantial change in how much you are able to pay or other issues that might necessitate the need for more or less parenting time with your child.
How Can a Father’s Rights Lawyer Help Me?
A Fairfax father’s rights lawyer can provide knowledge and experience with the law in order to ensure that your rights are protected through the process of:
- Determining legal and physical custody
- Establishing a schedule for parenting time and visitation that provides you ample time with your child.
- Child support, which requires the parent who does not have physical custody of the child to contribute financially to the expenses of raising the child. Whether you are the parent that the child will be primarily residing with or the parent who will be paying child support, your attorney can help make sure that the courts have accurate information when determining the amount of support that will be ordered.
- Modifications to previous orders in order to reflect life changes related to the ability to pay or the need to receive more support, or changes that will impact custody or parenting time.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What are my rights as a father in Virginia?
As a father in Virginia, you have a right to be involved in your child’s life and to receive fair consideration when it comes to custody and visitation. physical custody, legal custody, visitation, and non-custodial parenting are all important factors when considering a father’s rights.
Can a father get full custody in Virginia?
Yes, it is absolutely possible for a father to get full custody in Virginia. Virginia law looks at who is the primary caregiver, whether or not the other parent is unfit. They should not take into consideration the gender of the parents.
Can an unmarried father take a child from their mother in Virginia?
Child custody can get complicated when the parents are unwed. If the father of the child(ren) in question can prove their paternity as well as prove they are the best parent to be taking care of the child, it is possible for them to gain full custody.