Parents play a significant role in a child’s life, yet a father’s rights in Virginia following a divorce are often misunderstood. Determining custody and visitation is a huge part of the proceedings, but not knowing who has rights — or what those rights include — can complicate the process.
Here are a few facts to keep in mind:
- Mothers are typically regarded as the most essential individuals in children’s lives.
- There has been an increased emphasis on the idea of fathers being equal to mothers, however, particularly as family dynamics shift and more of them stay home to take care of children.
- Additionally, numerous studies show significant insight into the importance of the father role, especially in terms of child development.
- This research details that fathers are a big part of how a child develops academically and socially.
- Such changes in thinking have thus altered how child custody cases are being handled and the rights fathers have regarding their children.
This guide will provide you everything you need to know about a father’s rights in Virginia, including what they are, who is eligible, and what you need to do to petition for these rights.
Father’s Rights in Virginia
In Virginia, once a child’s paternity has been established, the court can make critical decisions regarding the child in terms of their support and guardianship. There are several reasons a court might intervene in such matters, including:
Determining the Best Interest of the Child
In Virginia, there is no presumption in favor of mothers in custody and visitation cases. In fact, judges determine custody by taking into account the “best interests of the child” as opposed to a parent’s desires.
This means that fathers have an equal right to gain custody of their children. The court typically finds that having both equally involved is in the child’s best interest, however, and thus tries to establish a joint child custody agreement whenever it can.
To Determine and Establish Child Support
If a father is appointed as the child’s primary guardian, he has a right to apply to the court for child support. In these instances, the noncustodial parent needs to provide financial payments to the primary guardian.
These payments are meant to help cover the costs of raising the child, which includes child care, food and clothing, and medical.
To Help a Father Get Legal Help
If a mother does not pay court-ordered child support, a father can work with the court to get their child support payment enforced. That means he can look to the Department of Social Services’ Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) to go after the payments he needs.
Understanding a father’s rights and why a court might want help intervene on his behalf is one thing, but it’s also important to know about eligibility in the state of Virginia. All of these factors play a role in what a father can and cannot do, and what he can and cannot petition for in the eyes of the law.
Who is Eligible for Father’s Rights in Virginia
Determining if a father has rights in Virginia depends on several factors and the specific circumstances of their individual situation. Consider the following:
When a married couple has a child together, it is often assumed that the mother’s husband is the biological father and consequently does not need to take any additional steps to establish paternity or “fatherhood.”
If an unmarried couple has a child together, the father has no legal rights because there is no presumption of paternity.
Additionally, if the father’s name is not on a child’s birth certificate, he is not entitled to seek visitation or custody of said child. He also cannot provide the child with any benefits, including health insurance, inheritance, or veterans’ benefits.
If paternity is established, then the parent has been determined to be the child’s legal father and has the rights and responsibilities of parenting. This means these fathers can seek legal custody and/or visitation with their children.
Giving Up Parental Rights
When you give up your parental rights, you are giving up your father’s rights and the ability to direct your child’s upbringing. This includes decisions related to the child’s education, medical care, and religious responsibility, among other factors, including the ability to monitor your child or provide them with shelter, clothing, and food.
If you are unsure about your father’s rights, it would be best to speak with an experienced divorce attorney that can go over all these situations with you and help you determine exactly which rights you have.
How to Petition for Father’s Rights
If you are looking to petition for a father’s rights, you need to ensure you take specific actions. These critical steps include:
- Establishing Paternity
You need to legally establish paternity as quickly as possible. This can be done by filing a verified petition in the appropriate court that you are seeking to recognize yourself as the child’s father. Once complete, you can present evidence of paternity to the court. Establishing this paternity can be completed by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) or getting genetically tested.
- Seeking Visitation or Custody
Once paternity is established, you can seek visitation or custody. Remember, Virginia courts will look into who the child’s primary caretaker is when determining custody. The faster you seek paternity after the child is born, the more difficult it will be to show that one parent is the primary caretaker. This can help you obtain more time with your child.
- Filing for Child Support
Both parents are required to provide financial support for their child’s benefit. You may be entitled to child support payments depending on your custodial time with the child, however.
Working with an experienced divorce attorney can help you take the legal steps required to ensure that you go after the rights you deserve — and do so in the most effective way.
Additional Questions about Father’s Rights?
Child support and paternity problems can result in many worries for a father, especially when they are unaware of their rights. Working with an experienced divorce attorney that understands these specific father’s rights can provide you the legal advice you need to create a fair separation agreement, thereby ensuring you can provide the best possible care for your child.
If you’re seeking an uncontested divorce and have any additional father’s right questions, contact Attorney David Grey today to speak with an experienced divorce lawyer. Our experts are here to help you sort out any concerns you might have, file the right paperwork, and ensure your rights are upheld in the state of Virginia.