A father can first file a Petition for Custody with the Court Services Unit of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to begin the process of getting full custody of a child in Virginia. In addition to the filing for custody, an Affidavit must also be filed.
Full custody in Virginia is generally only awarded when one parent presents an overwhelming case in their favor, and it is in the best interest of the child.
The Virginia State Code states that the court shall assure minors of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate. In line with this, Virginia courts encourage parents to share child-rearing responsibilities. However, the phrase “when appropriate” indicates that Virginia courts also weighs specific criteria that are in the best interest of the child.
Criteria to Consider in Determining the Best Interest of the Child in Virginia
1. The child’s age, physical condition, and mental condition
2. Each parent’s age, physical condition, and mental condition
3. Relationship between each parent and child
4. Needs of the child with respect to other relationships
5. Role of each parent in raising the child
6. The degree to which each parent supports the child’s contact with the other parent
7. The ability of the parents to sustain a close and continuing relationship with the child
8. The child’s preference if he or she is mentally and emotionally competent to decide
9. History of family abuse which could override all of the other factors
10. Any other factors that the court believes would have an impact on the child’s life which in the end, can be determinative to whom shall child custody be awarded
When it comes to child custody, fathers are now receiving equal consideration since child custody law in Virginia now reflects a gender-neutral climate. The following tips can also help fathers get a full custody in Virginia:
1. Stay Involved with Caring for your Children
Fathers should involve themselves into caring for their children and this comes in many forms such as tending to their physical and emotional needs, showing affection, taking a genuine interest in their lives, talking about things that matter to them, and affirming their efforts and achievements.
As a father, you can schedule regular time together with your children and squeeze having meaningful conversation with them. Simply asking them, “How are you today?” or “What happened today?” can really bring out their thoughts and feelings.
The best part in staying involved with your children’s lives is getting to know them more as an individual and if you know them as an individual, you can use this as a motivation to fight for them more, especially during child custody disputes.
2. Don’t Leave the Marital Home
It would be wrong for fathers to leave the marital home if they want to get full custody of the children. Some Virginia family court judges may consider leaving the marital home as an act of abandonment and this could seriously tarnish your image when determining full custody.
Do not leave the marital home and do not live away from your children because there are impacts that could affect a child custody case in Virginia if you practice long distance parenting. Long distance parenting is raising your children despite some distance away from them.
To avoid the chance for the judge to award the custody to your spouse, do not live away from your children. Changes can be difficult on children, so Virginia family court judges tend to look at which parent spends more time with the children and often lean on the direction on deciding to whom to award custody.
3. Keep Involved with School and Other Social Appearances
School involvement matters. It is important for children that you care about what they do in school and other social gatherings. If you attend to and meet their social circle or friends, it will greatly impact how they see you as a parent. Some ways for you as a father to do this is to attend orientation events, ask their teachers how they perform in school, encourage them to study better, help them manage homework, attend parent-teacher meetings, and even volunteer at the school. Just make sure you are fully informed and updated on what is going on with your child’s education and social life.
The school can also be an opportunity for you as a father to bolster your custody case. Here’s how: You can get to know the school teachers and administrators because they can become potential vital witnesses in child custody disputes. Teachers are often called in court to testify regarding parental involvement in their children’s lives, particularly in their education. Another best thing you can do is to ensure that you are invested in your child’s education. Make appearances and make sure your children’s teachers get used to seeing you in school.
Being involved in your children’s education is a good way to spend time with them and demonstrate your willingness to be involved in their growth. This will be well-appreciated by a family court judge in Virginia.
4. Take Your Kids to their Doctor’s Appointments
Fathers should also take their children to doctor’s appointments to build trust with them. When going to the doctor, children often worry because of numerous factors: separation from parent, pain, guilt, the doctor, and the unknown. As a father, you can help encourage your children to express their fears and then address them in ways they understand.
If you take your children to their doctor’s appointments regularly, the family court judge in Virginia may see this as a factor that you truly care for the well-being of your children because you personally see to it that they are well taken care of.
5. Be Cooperative with Your Ex-Spouse
To protect your children, you must cooperate with your ex-spouse by laying down your weapons in the divorce battle or custody battle. Your children should be your highest priority and you know that continuing to battle with your ex-spouse will only hurt them, even if they don’t say it.
Change your perspective if you still feel some bitterness and anger towards your spouse. Sort through those negative feelings and obtain insights to eventually enable you to be more positive as a father and as a person. Once you obtain inner peace, you will notice that your acts will also automatically change. The goal is to be cooperative with your ex-spouse and this is how you do it.
If you resolve issues in a cooperative way and demonstrate this in court, you can win some good points. This is called as the court’s appraisal of good faith to you, and it is greatly considered in awarding full custody.
6. Hire An Attorney As Soon As Possible
The preparatory phase of child custody cases can be overwhelming and time-consuming. It mostly involve managing documents, going from place to place while at the same time trying to squeeze in the time to meet with your children to spend time with them. It is a long way from the preparatory phase to winning full custody of your children. You have to hire an attorney to have proper guidance. The best thing you can do is obtain independent legal advice to help you throughout the process of getting full custody in Virginia.
It's important to think outside the box when you are involved in a child custody battle. The above-mentioned tips are ways in which you can be proactive as a father and be involved more in your children’s lives and therefore, giving you a higher chance to get full custody in Virginia.
The preceding information should not be construed as legal advice. If you are a father from Virginia and having child custody problems, in an ongoing child custody battle, wanted to alter an existing child custody agreement, please contact Virginia Attorney Tori Bramble at (540) 628-7340 or visit our website at www.bramblelawfirm.com for more information.