In Virginia, some parents have an interesting (if inaccurate) view of court documents. Apparently, they feel they are optional, as in, the parent can ignore the specific directions of a court. These same parents may feel “Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat” is a little bossy, or that advice not to look at solar eclipses is just fear-mongering. Imagine their surprise, then, to find themselves partially blind, with dirty hair, and in contempt of court.
Your Virginia Custody Order
Child custody and visitation is set out in a court order issued (in most cases) by a Virginia Circuit Court judge. It is an order, not a request, as in, “Go to your room, young man,” or “Do problems #1 to #11 on page 35 for homework.” You always have the power to ignore an order, but you also must know you invite the consequence of your actions.
If a court visitation order sets out your rights as a father to your children, and the children’s mother ignores those rights, she is in contempt of court. That may mean very little to her, but she will have to accept the possible punishment:
- Up to 10 days in jail
- A monetary fine up to $250
That is per incident. If your child’s mother refuses to allow you your regular visitation, you need not call the police. Call your attorney. Record the date, time, and circumstances. Have your attorney handle it. Save any telephone text messages or emails that related to the visitation.
Conditional or Vague Language
Please notice, though, that the entire circumstance is conditional: “if a court visitation order sets out your rights …” If your attorney did not do a good job outlining exactly what is and is not allowed with visitation, the children’s mother might get away with a lot of bad behavior.
She might prevent you from having overnight visits, in which your children spend the night at your home. If your parenting plan spells out the days and times you have your children, she cannot legally ignore that. If your parenting plan is vague, she can easily upset your plans and claim not to know any better.
Make Sure She Has No Ammunition
If you feel your children’s mother may try to find ways to “get at you,” give her no ammunition for her battle. A common claim is that she withholds visitation as revenge for slow or no child support payments. That is illegal, but getting it straightened out is a court battle, not something to do in the middle of the Virginia Chuck E. Cheese’s on Lishelle Place. Give the problem to your custody attorney.
The best way to rob her of causes and justifications for her illegal moves is to scrupulously document, record, and memorialize everything. Keep records of conversations, preserve texts and emails, and make your child support payments on time, every time.
Give her no reason to doubt your behavior. If she tries to throw past issues at you, highlight your improvements and changes. One of the easiest buttons she can push will be past problems with drugs and alcohol. You may have carved a tough and difficult journey back from problems but expect her to poke at you with whatever your weakness was. Be above it. Explain your progress, how you are scrupulously clean with your children, and how you are laser-focused on providing them a great Dad-kid experience.
Take away her ammunition not with your own verbal grenades, but with clarity, kindness, and courtesy.
Get EVERYTHING in Writing
Examine your court order, too, so you know exactly what she can and cannot do. If the wording says specifically you have the children overnight from Friday evenings at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday evening at 6:00 p.m., she is left to argue with the order, not you.
Politely but firmly direct her attention to the exact page, paragraph and lines that identify your rights. Make clear to her that she will be in contempt of court for ignoring your visitation rights. And, without threatening her in any way, inform her of your intention to enforce those rights through your family law attorney.
Get Good Advice from Custody Lawyers for Fathers
Such a reserved course may lead to several disappointing and painful weekends, for both you and your children. You cannot control your children’s mother, but you can control yourself and how your children perceive you. Avoid casting their mother as a horrible person. She is wrong, and what she is doing is illegal, but she may be doing it out of a perverse sense of what is best for the children.
In a nutshell, your children’s mother cannot trample on the rights spelled out and protected in the court order, but you may need an attorney to assert those rights.
Child custody and visitation is always fraught with confusion. Get clarity by calling The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184, or contact our offices online. We can stop you from being unhappy, help you learn what is legal and illegal, and what your rights as a Virginia man are. We work hard all the time to defend and protect the rights of all out clients, and their children.