Children have two parents and, contrary to popular belief, there is no legal presumption that the mother is more deserving of full physical custody than the father. It’s a common misconception that mothers are better equipped to handle the “lion’s share” of custodial responsibilities. Unfortunately, this assumption is largely fueled by the actions of the court, where judges have overwhelmingly awarded more overnights to mothers, instead of fathers. However, many courts and judges are beginning to recognize the value of more equitable custody divisions, leading the way for fathers to successfully advocate for more overnights. With the help of an experienced family law attorney, fathers can successfully exercise their custody and visitation rights.
How Courts Decide
When advocating for custody or significant visitation, it is useful to know and understand what elements the court considers when making a determination. Virginia Code Sec. 20-124.3 directs judges to make custody and visitation determinations based on the best interest of the child(ren). This means that the court does not make a decision based on the wants or desires of the parent. The chief concern is what arrangement best meets the needs of the child. Some of the specific considerations include:
- Which parent is best able to provide the child with consistency, by maintaining the current living and education arrangement
- Which parent primarily handles the day-to-day responsibilities of the child, including school and extracurricular activities
- Which parent is most willing to co-parent with the other parent and facilitate an ongoing relationship between the child and the absent parent
- In certain situations where the child is of appropriate age and maturity, the preference and opinion of the child is considered
Don’t Make Assumptions
If you assume that the court will automatically award custody to the mother, you may do yourself a disservice by signing a parental agreement that is unfavorable to your interests. Don’t make this assumption and don’t feel forced to sign an agreement. If you sign an unsatisfactory parenting agreement and later decide to advocate for more time, it can prove difficult to change the terms of the arrangement. Once the court accepts the agreement and incorporates it into the divorce order, changes are only allowed when a material change in circumstances is proven.
If you are a father pursuing custody in the state of Virginia, contact the attorneys of Shannon & Associates for a free consultation. These experienced family law attorneys will advocate for your custody and visitation rights. Call (757) 228-5529 or contact Shannon and Associates, Attorneys at Law online today.