Most adult men are not whiners. They do not complain incessantly about how unfair life is; adults leave that to developing children and teens. If ever a circumstance could make a Virginia man feel like whining, though, it would be after a divorce. The divorce, custody and visitation laws of the Commonwealth are not written with the best interests of Virginia’s adult men in mind. They are written to protect children. They are written to promote the best interests of children, not to make convenient visitation schedules for Dads. Yet, those same laws do provide rights to Virginia fathers who want to keep strong bonds between father and children.
Dad’s Visitation Rules, according to Virginia Courts
To get an insight into how Virginia ranks kids and Dads, let’s go straight to the horse’s mouth, the Virginia court system. While some fathers may feel the odds are against them, the state does not try to hide its rationale in how judges determine visitation schedules:
- They must be child-focused visits
- They must provide frequent and continuing opportunities for contact with both parents
- The visitation schedule must preserve the dignity of child, father, and mother
- Visitation should help the family spend time, money and “emotional resources” in the most positive ways circumstances permit
- Children must benefit from a healthy, “non-abusive family environment” at all times
The law is gender-neutral. Fathers who are non-custodial parents have visitation rights that center on providing the child with the best possible experience. Non-custodial mothers have the same rights.
A Father’s Involvement based on a Judge’s Discretion
Virginia’s judges have wide latitude in determining both custody and visitation, but they are still bound by the Code of Virginia, meaning § 20-124.2 and § 20-124.3. These two sections guide judges in setting visitation schedules, but, again, the primary protected interest is the child, not the father (or mother).
Specific phrases in the law (§ 20-124.3) protect a father, though, and must be respected by all parties — judge, attorneys for both parents, Mom, and you, the Dad. These areas and phrases include:
- The age and physical and mental condition of each parent
- The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child
- The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child
- The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child
Each of those statements can be used by your attorney to assert your rights, as the child’s father, to visitation with your own child. Your attorney will build a powerful argument that you have been involved with your child before the divorce and deserve the right to continue that involvement.
The Core of a Fathers Visitation Rights
We have deliberately left out one key phrase in Code of Virginia § 20-124.3 you should hold near and dear to your heart, because it speaks directly to a common behavior among divorced mothers. We quote it here from the Code word for word:
“The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child”
This is the core of fathers’ visitation rights in Virginia. This one paragraph of § 20-124.3 is your opportunity (through your attorney) to lay out any unreasonable actions your ex-wife took to prevent you from being part of your children’s lives.
If you are worried about visitation rights, that automatically means you are not the custodial parent. The children’s mother, though, can still be called out on questionable or even illegal tactics in which she uses your own children against you.
Do Not Dispose of the Evidence
Your attorney will advise you to avoid a he said-she said argument. Gather evidence. Save texts or emails in which your ex-wife places obstacles between you and your kids. Save voice mails. Reminders you wrote can also be used to memorialize times when she promised to meet you with your own kids at, say, Pocahontas Pancake & Waffle House in Virginia Beach on Saturday morning between 9:30 and 10:00 but did not show up until half past three, leaving you twisting in the wind for half the day. She just burned through some five hours of quality Saturday family time. That, most judges would agree, was unreasonable.
Suppose you had an uncontested divorce, and had worked out a visitation schedule with your ex-wife. Working with your attorney, you can present evidence to a judge that the property settlement agreement you and your wife signed is not being honored, because she is not living up to the visitation schedule. You can assert your rights, protected by the agreement, in court.
Suppose you had a contested divorce, and a judge set up the visitation schedule. That makes it a court order, not to be trifled with; your attorney will push hard against such contempt of court. Your wife may have plenty to say to you outside of court about why she feels justified in ignoring the schedule, but she will find precious little to say to a Virginia judge in a contempt hearing.
Call the Visitation Lawyers for Dads!
In every circumstance, when your fatherly visitation rights are being encroached, you need to turn to The Firm For Men for help. We can petition the court, help you gather evidence, and present the strongest possible case to secure and defend your rights under Virginia’s existing laws. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling (757) 383-9184 before any more of your rights are eroded.