The concept of custody is generally composed of two sections – legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody generally refers to major decision-making authority and responsibility for day-to-day activities. Physical custody generally relates to the time the child spends with each party and is often interchangeable with the concept of parenting time.
Fathers’ Rights and Paternity
The Virginia Department of Social Services notes that establishing paternity builds self-esteem in children, establishes family identity, encourages shared parenting and helps determine health history. Declaring paternity also provides a legal relationship between the father and a child in court.
This helps the court determine guardianship awards and visitation rights. Declaring paternity also provides legal protection and opportunities for children, including coverage by any medical insurance held by the father or potential benefits from the father’s Social Security or veteran’s benefits. Virginia recognizes putative fatherhood, a term used to describe unmarried, biological fathers and fathers in a minor-parent relationship without any legal adoptive recognition. Virginia sponsors an online state putative father registry to provide fathers with notifications of court actions involving a minor listed on the registry. The notifications allow fathers to attend guardianship and adoption hearings involving biological children.
Gaining Custody or Visitation Rights
Many people believe courts favor mothers, but this is not true. Under Virginia law, there is no presumption that one parent should have more custody than another. The court looks at the best interests of the minor. Depending on the situation you seek, you and your attorney may be able to obtain split custody or a significant amount of visitation. The court wants children to have solid relationships with both parents, so do not settle for less than what you want and deserve as a father.
How custody of your child is determined depends on the best interest of the children. The judge is required to consider a list of factors, including:
- The age and physical and mental condition of the minor, giving due consideration to the minor’s changing developmental needs.
- The age and physical and mental condition of each parent.
- The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child.
- The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child, including but not limited to siblings, peers and extended family members.
- The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the minor.
- The propensity of each parent to actively support the minor’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the minor.
A minor’s preference to live with the Father is only one factor that the Court must consider when determining custody and visitation, in accordance with the laws of Virginia. The child’s age, maturity, and reasons for his or her preference will determine how much weight the court affords the child’s preference.