Gender equality is admirable in issues like pay and workload, yet the term itself is a bit of an oxymoron. Genders are not biologically equal. Men make their … er … contribution … to the process, but only women develop life and give birth to babies. Still, can a Virginia Dad get custody of a baby? The answer is as convoluted as trying to decipher a baby’s babble.
The Biological Needs of a Baby
Babies have certain biological needs in the first months of life; fathers and mothers accept that. A mother’s breast milk is valuable for a baby’s health and development, says the American Pregnancy Association. Since Virginia law always puts the “best interests of the child” above any other considerations, your odds of convincing a Virginia judge to give you, the Dad, custody of a baby still on breast milk are slim.
Yet, some conditions could justify an appeal for sole physical custody to the judge by your attorney, such as:
- The mother’s incarceration
- Your ex-wife’s failing health
- Her military service weighed against your flexible job
In Virginia courts, the presumption that a young baby must be with the mother can be challenged on many grounds.
Feeding the Controversy
While the American Academy of Pediatrics likes to envision women providing nutritious, infection-fighting breast milk for six months and as long as 12 (or sometimes more), circumstances can compel women returning to work to end breastfeeding early and switch to bottle formula. A Dad assuming custody of a baby could feasibly meet the baby’s nutritional needs just from formula.
Virginia law (enshrined in the Code of Virginia, § 20-124.2) provides no expectation of one gender over another and no age test for custody:
“As between the parents, there shall be no presumption or inference of law in favor of either.”
In other words, from birth through age 18, a child is a child in the eyes of the law, so both Mom and Dad are considered equally viable parents for either full or shared physical custody.
Paternal Support: Are You a Natural Caregiver?
Bowing to the reality that the mother brings the baby into this world does not mean Dads are not caregivers, or are somehow lesser. Several factors will play into the court’s decision-making process on the suitability of you, the father, taking full custody of a baby.
Despite a seemingly endless stream of Hollywood drivel involving men gagging as they change diapers, real Virginia men can and do change diapers, pick out cute outfits, buckle babies into car seats, and puree peaches to perfection. What makes a good Dad?
A judge looks for a pattern of paternal support:
- Do you have the time and energy to be a completely involved parent to a baby?
- Have you shown a track record of involvement in preschool, doctor visits, and baptism?
- If you have older kids too, have you been with them through emergencies, team sports, back-to-school nights, and playdates?
- Do you show the commitment of time, energy and maturity needed to take care of a helpless baby?
This boils down to a simple question you must answer for yourself, privately, before asking your attorney to file for physical custody of a baby: Will you make the baby the #1 priority in your life?
Think long and hard about that; Virginia always — always — puts the best interests of the child above anyone else’s needs. Above your job, money, home, sleep, reputation as a sexy, sexy beast — your baby must come first. If you cannot realistically commit to that, or think you will slyly palm the tot off on your own mother for free babysitting, do the right thing. Yield custody to the baby’s mother.
Can, Should, Shall
Virginia can grant custody of a small baby to a father. You should consider the ramifications of such a motion before having your attorney file it. Your child shall be your complete responsibility should the court grant your motion.
If you are determined to gain custody, part of your strategy to promote yourself as a suitable parent under § 20-124.2 will necessarily be to demonstrate the baby’s mother’s unfitness to win custody.
To be completely blunt, if your ex-wife has fallen victim to the national opioid crisis, is not of sound moral hygiene (she’s a prostitute), is committing crimes, or has a history of problems with Child Protective Services (CPS), you may have a strong case. Only your experienced attorney can properly counsel you for your particular situation.
Call the Child Custody Attorneys for Dads ONLY!
While we cannot help interpret baby talk, we can help with custody. Contact The Firm For Men online, or call us at 757-383-9184. We stand ready to help you, one of Virginia’s tough guys, with your baby issues.