The world record for the most people performing a headstand simultaneously is 648, say the folks at Guinness World Records1. Around our offices, we like that record, because we tend to turn the tables on a lot of Virginia custom in our pursuit of legal fairness and equity. For example, though too few Virginia men are custodial parents, those who are deserve equal protection under Virginia law. Can a custodial father, for instance, prevent an unfit mother from seeing her own kids?
Start with the Basics: Virginia Custody Laws
Learning to do a headstand is, supposedly, very easy; so easy, in fact, you can learn in just five basic moves2. Yeah. Have at it. Let us know how it goes. We think learning the basics of Virginia law is more useful and can tone your core nearly as well as a headstand will.
If you have been awarded custody of your child, this means the Virginia Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court (J&DR) judged, in the best interests of your child, that your ex-wife was not as fit a parent as you are. Though not as common as awarding Virginia mothers custody, paternal custody does happen (and is happening more and more!), as we have indicated in earlier writings.
If we assume Virginia tracks the nation, roughly a sixth of Virginia custodial parents are men. Though the numbers may have improved since 2013, we can feel safe in assuming more than half of custodial parents in the Commonwealth are mothers.
So why would J&DR award custody of children to a father? Because the court is required by law to uphold the best interests of the child, the judge is therefore saying the mother does not represent the child’s best interests. Why?
These are some reasons the J&DR would say you, Dad, were more fit to parent your kids than your ex-wife:
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- A police record for child abuse, neglect, or domestic violence
- Her work schedule or professional responsibilities
- Current incarceration
- Her own admission
Turning the situation upside down, think what you would have to do to be a worse parent than your ex-wife. Whatever you did, she more than matched it in the eyes of a Virginia judge. You have custody, and she will want visitation rights.
So, Do You “Allow” Visitation?
You were deemed a better parent for your child than her mother, in the eyes of the Virginia legal system. That does not mean she is to be ignored, however. So now, you and your attorney face a motion from your ex-wife to allow her visitation with her little girl. If your ex-wife is incarcerated or has admitted to being a lousy mother, your attorney may not need much effort to help the court see the weakness of her argument.
If, though, she was a drug abuser and has recently shown persistent effort to clean herself up, get a stable job, and stay in counseling, you may need to go before a judge to provide evidence that she is still not a worthy parent, even for visitation, even after all she did to improve herself.
The continuing goal for Virginia’s legal system is to support the best interests of the state’s children, so you do have a tough case to pursue. The court will want, by Code of Virginia § 20-124.2, to maintain “the primacy of the parent-child relationship,” which means Mom still counts. You may think she was a terrible wife and a horrible mother, but she is still your children’s mother and a healthy relationship is to be encouraged, says the state. Therefore Virginia looks for ways to make visitation work.
One tool the court could apply is to grant supervised visitation, often at the offices of Department of Social Services. This has all the homey charm of a barracks broom closet, but at least Mom and kid can be together.
If even that limited exposure sticks in your craw, you and your attorney will need to demonstrate to the court’s satisfaction that your ex-wife is such a bad influence, even minimal exposure to her will far outweigh in damage whatever good may be in keeping them in contact as mother and child.
What if She’s Not Paying Child Support?
If, as the custodial parent, you don’t receive child support from your ex-wife, you cannot “punish” her by preventing visitation. The two issues — finances and the family relationship — are not connected in the eyes of the court. Such a move imperils your custody of your kids, so always take the high road. (If you do take the high road, look out for Lakshay Jangid, who performed a headstand3 while riding a bicycle on a road in India. No, we don’t know why.) Use your attorney to petition the court to prevent visitation, require payments for support, or to ask for supervised visitations.
Reach Out to Family Lawyers for Dads!
Your call to 757-383-9184 takes you to The Firm For Men, where trained family lawyers for fathers work exclusively to preserve and defend men’s rights in Virginia proceedings. You may also reach us with an online contact. We handle every aspect of family law, including child custody and visitation rights.