We all remember the quaint days of “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service.” Nowadays, it’s “No Mask, No Service.” What happens if it’s “No Court Order, No Custody” looming in your life?
At The Start: Equal Responsibility in Parenting
Babies are natural. Paperwork is not. Babies are born free and unencumbered by birth certificates, immunization records, report cards, driver licenses, or any of the other paper trappings of our modern society. The point: a baby born to you and a Virginia woman arrives with nothing but a grin. Nobody challenges you or the baby’s mother about custody of the child. Little Linda or Bouncing Bobby are just yours.
You and the mother each have custody. You each have the joy (and responsibility) of caring for, safeguarding, feeding, and housing that baby. You each have the same amount of responsibility. Equally.
Take a look at your Little Linda’s birth certificate. In Virginia, as with every other state, no fine print appears outlining who will change diapers, who will pay for braces; you and Bouncing Bobby’s Mom just do all the things parents do, equitably.
Who Has Custody if the Parents Aren’t Married?
Whether the two parents are married or not, this same notion of equitable custody and responsibility holds true whether a court decree on custody exists or not. If you and the baby’s mother are married and separated, with no court order or property settlement agreement outlining custody, you have equal rights to the child.
Equal rights means you both can pick up and drop off Bouncing Bobby at daycare. You both can drive Little Linda to Little League. You both can pay for braces, dance lessons, or a cello. (No kidding, a junior-sized cello is adorable.)
Married, living together, separated, or divorced without a custody order, you and the child’s mother can continue to live as nature intended: equal partners in raising your child.
Is Raising a Child Easier without a Custody Order?
Sounds great, except … what happens when you say you want Bouncing Bobby for a boisterous beach birthday bash? And she says (wait for it), “No!”
What happens when you want to get Little Linda immunized and you suddenly learn her mother is against vaccines? Legally, you both have the right to determine her medical, physical, spiritual and educational needs (that is called legal custody).
What happens when you are counting on keeping the kids in a cool cabin a couple of weeks next summer? Then you learn the kids’ Mom wants to keep them the entire summer to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic on a wide, warm, welcoming Virginia beach (say, in Virginia Beach).
You may both think these confrontations will never happen, until they do. Without a court order for custody, or without a property settlement agreement spelling out custody and visitation, you are left to argue, to cajole, and to beg for time with your kids.
Not only is that constant clash wearing on you emotionally, it is bad for the kids. Think of the scenes you and their mother will be displaying for the kids’ tender ears and eyes. Arguments over money, weekends, physical and legal custody. It will be a mess.
But Your Honor
You have two choices with dealing with the Virginia court:
- You can drag the kids’ Mom to court after the confrontations, having your family law attorney charge her with unreasonably denying you your parenting time with your own children. She can hire a lawyer to defend herself. You’ll go back and forth, the judge will ask about the custody order, and then …
Everyone will sheepishly admit that no order, and no property settlement agreement, exists. Not to worry! The Virginia court judge will solve that quick, by issuing a custody order from the bench. And the judge won’t care what you and the kids’ Mom wanted. The judge is legally bound to do what is “in the best interests of the child.” So the mother may get 100 percent physical custody, you will get 50 percent legal custody, and you will suddenly be the noncustodial parent paying child support.
- Come to court with your family law attorney and a property settlement agreement already in hand. Craft the agreement you and the children’s mother want, before the judge sees it and before the first hint of conflict:
- Physical custody
- Legal custody
- Visitation time
- Vacations and special family days
- Child support
Load up your wish list and the mother’s, too! The judge is going to be grateful to your two attorneys for saving the court some work. It is not the responsibility of the courts to overrule two consenting adults’ contractual agreement, as long as the agreement is legal and not coercive.
Call The Custody Lawyers for Dads!
To get the property settlement agreement you need and want, come to The Firm For Men. We focus on protecting Virginia men’s rights, including the right to see their children. Contact us online or telephone our offices at (757) 383-9184. We can get you the court order you need, just the way nature intended.