In the past, courts looked more favorably on mothers as the primary caregivers for children. The law has evolved, and now fathers are considered equally capable of raising their kids. A mother who believes she is the better, more stable parent may now face an uphill battle to gain full custody.
If you are separating or divorcing your children’s father, you must understand your legal rights as a mother. A Virginia mother’s rights lawyer could help you navigate the complex laws regarding child custody. One of our firm’s experienced family attorneys could also help protect your financial interests in a divorce.
Understanding a Mother’s Custody Rights in Virginia
A common concern when couples separate is what the custodial arrangement will be for their children. While there is no longer a legal presumption in favor of the mother, she may still seek primary custody of her children if she has concerns about sharing custody with the father.
Virginia Code §20-124.2 directs judges to consider custody arrangements that allow both parents to have ample time with their children and share the responsibilities of parenting them. Accordingly, if a mother wants to be the primary parent and possibly even restrict the father’s visitation, she must demonstrate to the court why such an arrangement would be in the children’s best interests. Because obtaining primary custody can be difficult under the current law, a mother may benefit from the counsel of an experienced attorney in Virginia who can protect her rights.
The Right to Parenting Time
If a judge awards custody of the couple’s children to the father, the mother still has the right to visitation, or ‘parenting time,’ under Virginia law. If the father attempts to withhold the children or interferes in any way with the mother’s time with her kids, the mother may ask a judge to enforce the parenting schedule and hold the father in contempt of court. If the father is in contempt, a judge may order him to comply with the visitation, pay the mother’s legal fees, or serve a period of incarceration.
One of the primary factors a court considers when it assesses whether a parent is a suitable custodian for their children is whether that parent supports the other parent’s relationship with the children. Accordingly, if the father’s interference with the mother’s parenting time is unreasonable and ongoing, and done with the intent to harm the mother’s relationship with the kids, the court may consider awarding custody to the mother.
A Mother’s Right to Child Support
If a mother has primary custody of her children, she has the right to receive child support from the father. Even if the parents have equal time with their children, a mother may still have a right to child support if her income is less than the father’s. If a child support order is in effect and the father refuses to pay, a skilled lawyer could file a petition for contempt and request that the Virginia order is strictly enforced.
The Right to Spousal Support and Equitable Property Distribution
In a divorce, a mother is entitled to a fair portion of the parties’ marital property. In some cases, she may also be eligible for spousal support. For example, if the mother left a career to stay home and care for the parties’ children, she may have difficulty re-entering the workforce and supporting herself after the divorce. A local attorney could help ensure that the mother receives financial support sufficient to regain her financial independence and move on with her life.
Speak To a Skilled Virginia Mother’s Rights Attorney
Because mothers are no longer presumed to be better parents than fathers, it can be challenging for a mother to gain primary custody of her children or limit their time with their father. A mother may also face other legal challenges in a divorce when she asserts her rights to spousal support and a fair division of the couple’s property.
In a divorce or custody dispute, a Virginia mother’s rights lawyer could help protect your rights and your children’s best interests. Whether it be presenting a compelling case for custody or proving to a judge that you have a legitimate need for ongoing financial support, our firm will work diligently to achieve a favorable result in your case. Call today.