Fortunately for fathers, there is no longer any legal presumption that children should be in the custody of their mother. Fathers are recognized as competent and loving caregivers. State law now presumes that children’s interests are best served by spending substantial time with both parents.
If you are a father fighting for custody of your child, or you want to confirm paternity and establish a relationship with your child, a Virginia father’s rights lawyer could help. A family attorney could also assist you if you have been notified of the state’s intention to terminate your parental rights. Our firm’s attorneys are skilled at protecting father’s rights and ensuring that they have a meaningful role in their children’s lives.
Fathers Have Equal Rights to Custody
Based on the past, when mothers were presumed to be better parents than fathers, a man facing a custody battle may be understandably concerned about losing time with his kids. However, pursuant to Virginia Code §20-124.2, there is no longer any legal presumption in favor of either parent. Judges must now make child custody decisions that assure the minor children of ‘frequent and continuing contact with both parents,’ and both parents are encouraged to share in the child-rearing responsibilities.
How Custody is Determined
Since a maternal preference no longer exists, judges determine child custody based solely on the child’s best interest. To determine ‘best interest,’ the court considers the factors outlined in Virginia Code §124.3, including the following:
- The child’s age and health
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s specific needs
- Each parent’s role in raising and caring for the child
- Each parent’s desire to maintain a close relationship with the child
- Each parent’s ability and willingness to support the child’s relationship with the other parent
- Any history of abuse or domestic violence
- The child’s preference, if they are mature enough to have a reasoned opinion
Parents are always encouraged to negotiate a parenting plan without going to court. If they cannot, a judge will render a decision based on these factors. An experienced attorney understands how to present a compelling case to the Virginia court to help a father protect his rights.
Establishing Paternity in Virginia
To secure the right to custody or visitation with his child, a man must first submit to a DNA test if his paternity is called into question. The mother, the alleged father, or even the child may request the paternity test at any time before the child reaches age 18. Once paternity is confirmed, the father can petition a court for custody or visitation if he and the mother cannot agree on a parenting plan.
An alleged father may also face a court-ordered paternity test. The Code of Virginia §63.2-1913 authorizes the Division of Child Support Enforcement to order genetic testing if there is a paternity dispute. A skilled father’s rights lawyer could assist a parent in securing the DNA test and, if paternity is confirmed, submit the proper paternity order to the court.
Termination of a Father’s Parental Rights
In extreme cases, a judge may terminate a father’s parental rights, leaving him with no legal relationship with his children. This could occur if a father has abused, neglected, or abandoned the children. However, a court could also terminate a father’s rights if the mother affirms under oath that she either does not know who the father is, or she cannot locate him.
A child’s legal or biological father has the right to receive notice of any termination proceeding. The father may then object to the termination of his rights. Because of the severe nature of termination proceedings in Virginia, a father who receives a notice of termination should contact an attorney to protect his rights and interests as soon as possible.
Consult a Virginia Father’s Rights Attorney Today
While being a father has many benefits, men may feel that fatherhood is a disadvantage in a custody case. Fortunately, state law has evolved over time, and fathers are now considered equally important as mothers when caring for their children.
Experienced father’s rights attorneys understand the importance of a healthy and meaningful relationship between children and both parents. A Virginia father’s rights lawyer knows the law and could work to preserve a father’s time with his kids. Reach out today to a member of the team for help.