Father pushing daughter on swingThis is the next post in the series on the rights of fathers in Virginia. The last article discussed why fathers should immediately obtain a child custody order. It is important to understand that, without an order, one will not be able to enforce their wishes to have custody or visitation. A dad will also be under no obligation to pay child support when the parents lack a custody order. In this article we will discuss another important topic – the fact that dads should take action immediately or else the court may leave the “status quo” in place when the time does come to issue an order. If you require assistance then contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.

Virginia judges will often stick with the “status quo” if it has been in place long-term

A Virginia juvenile and domestic relations court judge will consider many factors when making an initial child custody determination. These factors include, among many, the historical relationship between the child and each parent. Say, for example, that the parents have never had a custody order in regards to a five-year old child. Now, say that the mother has always had the child Monday through Friday and that the dad has had custody on Saturdays and Sundays only. If the parents have employed this arrangement without issue then, absent a good reason to modify it, many judges will simply find that the status quo has been working and will make the existing arrangement an order of the court. This means that the longer a dad allows a situation to go on then the more they are validating that such an arrangement is in the child’s best interests. By immediately seeking a court order, one is not allowing a historical arrangement to be created.

It is not to say that a historical arrangement is the only factor the court will consider. A judge will also analyze the needs of the child, the ability of each parent to meet those needs, as well as several other considerations. While courts tend to prefer that the status quo be left in place, a judge will vary from it if there is good reason to do so.

Virginia fathers can gain a custody modification if there has been a material change of circumstances

If there has been a material change of circumstances, which prompted you to file for custody, then courts may show little concern for the status quo. Using the same example given above, suppose a mother has been the primary caretaker for all of a five year old’s life. If the father is requesting a change due to the mother’s recent drug use, then the court’s primary concern will be the mom’s fitness to parent at the current time as opposed to her historical role. Absent a material change in circumstances, however, courts will give the status quo substantial weight.

If you are a dad in need of assistance, contact our office today to speak with a fathers’ rights lawyer.