Child custody and other family law matters are complicated enough when the parents are married. When the parents aren’t married, though, there are extra hoops to jump through, making an already emotional process that much more complicated. Make sure your rights and your child’s needs are protected by getting help from a knowledgeable Virginia child custody attorney.
The attorneys at Invictus Law have extensive experience with child custody cases. We’ve received numerous awards for our exceptional legal services, including being named to the National Trial Lawyers’ Top 100 list. No matter how difficult your case may seem, we can help you find a way forward that’s best for your interests. Learn more about our services by calling our Virginia Beach office or visiting our contact page.
Being an unmarried parent does not, in and of itself, disqualify you from having either shared or sole custody of your children when you split from your former partner. But it can make the process more challenging since you’ll have to establish your parental rights before you can pursue custody. For unwed mothers, this is a minor issue. Virginia law presumes that you are the child’s mother at birth. But if you are an unwed father, you’ll need to establish paternity before you can seek custody of your children.
There are a few different ways to establish paternity if a father isn’t married to the mother of their child. The easiest and most common method is to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form when the child is born, assuming the mother agrees that the man is the father of her child.
If an unwed father wishes to protect his paternal rights and the mother doesn’t agree to an Acknowledgement of Paternity form, the father can register with the Virginia Birth Father Registry. This must be done within ten days of the child’s birth. Registered alleged fathers will be informed of any custody dispute related to their children, such as adoption proceedings or the child’s placement in foster care.
Finally, if the father has not signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity form or registered with the Virginia Birth Father Registry, a genetic test can be used to confirm the father’s paternity. By comparing the child’s DNA to DNA from the man alleging paternity, the courts can determine if the man is the child’s biological father.
How Are Child Custody and Visitation Rights Established?
Once you’ve established your parental rights, the custody process for unmarried parents is the same as for married parents. Your marital status is generally not a major factor in the custody process. Instead, the courts look at other factors to determine who will have custody of your children. Courts must award custody based on the best interest of the child. Some of the factors used to determine custody include:
- The role each parent has played in raising the child
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child
- The age and mental condition of the child
- The relationship between each parent and the child
- The relationship between the parents and whether they can cooperate while raising the child
- Any history of family abuse or other behaviors that could harm the child
How a Virginia Child Custody Lawyer Can Help
Our Virginia family law attorneys at Invictus Law are ready to assist you if you have a child custody case. We could help you establish your parental rights and gather the evidence to support your case for custody and visitation rights. Find out more about how we can help you by calling our office in Virginia Beach or visiting our contact page.