Though divorce can mean many significant changes for your family, one thing divorce should not automatically affect is a father’s rights to spend time with his children. Divorce does not change or eliminate the parental rights and responsibilities that either parent has under the law. Those rights and responsibilities include having a relationship with your children and helping to financially support them. In many cases, fathers may feel shut out of their child’s life following a divorce, especially if the mother becomes the custodial parent. An experienced family law attorney can help you stand up for your rights as a father.
First, fathers should understand that courts in Virginia do not automatically give any preference to the mother when making custody determinations. In fact, the court focuses on the quality of the relationship between child and parent, not the quantity of time a child has spent with one parent over the other. Therefore, even a stay at home mom would not be inherently favored over a father who worked full time.
Next, even if you do not have primary physical custody, you still have rights regarding your child. There are two types of child custody: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to the time the child is actually physically present with you. Legal custody, however, refers to your ability to make decisions for your child, including education, medical care, and religious upbringing. Therefore, even if you do not have physical custody, you still have the right to be involved in the important decisions about your child’s life.
If you do not have physical custody, you likely have a visitation arrangement. Every father has the right to have the visitation agreement enforced if your child’s mother is not following the agreement. Both parents are expected under the law to encourage and foster a relationship with the other parent. You should not have to deal with a former spouse who unlawfully keeps your children away from you.
In short, fathers should be aware of their rights and should fight for them. If you believe your father’s rights are being violated, you should not hesitate to call the Law Offices of Raymond B. Benzinger at (703) 312-0410. Our experienced Virginia family law attorneys can help you preserve your rights as a father.