Even if you are awarded primary physical custody, you’re going to have to allow your child’s father to have some visitation with your child. For some women, this is a tough pill to swallow, especially if dad doesn’t typically make the best choices when he has the child or when the relationship between mom and dad has deteriorated so dramatically that they can barely speak cordially to each other. Unfortunately, though, the court isn’t looking so much at the he said, she said, the judge is looking to determine what’s in the best interests of the child.
And the prevailing opinion of most judges in Virginia is that it is definitely in the child’s best interests to be around BOTH parents.
Even though you may disagree, one of the quickest ways to lose custody is by refusing to allow the other parent to have contact with the child. Even if your child’s father exercises visitation inconsistently, returns the child late, or talks negatively about you in front of the child, the court will probably still find that it is in the child’s best interests to have a relationship with his father.
It is very difficult for your child’s father’s behavior to be so negative that it outweighs the positive impact his presence will have on the child. Though his behavior may support the judge awarding you primary physical custody, it is very likely that your child’s father will have joint legal custody and pretty substantial visitation—especially if he wants it badly enough to fight over it.
These days, custody cases aren’t so much about winning custody or losing custody as sharing it. In a case where two parents are fighting in court over the custody of their child, one parent won’t lose custody completely, barring some exceptional circumstances. In most cases, a fight over custody only means that the parents are fighting over the degree to which they will share custody. (Shared custody is an arrangement for the physical custody of the child where the non-custodial parent has the child for 90 days or more per year.) If your child’s father is fighting you over it, you can bet he’ll have pretty substantial visitation and, in many cases, will even share physical custody.
The court won’t punish your child’s father for his bad behavior by withholding the child from him (again, barring exceptional circumstances). Why? Again, the reason for promoting visitation, even with a less than perfect parent, is because the judges believe that having two involved parents is in the best interests of the child.
Say it over to yourself again and again: the best interests of the child. That’s what custody cases in Virginia are all about! Strategically, it’s a very bad move to go into court and argue that your child’s father shouldn’t get this time or that time with his child because of his bad behavior. In fact, if you do, this is one of the most surefire ways to lose custody, or increase the amount of time your child’s father gets. Remember to focus, at all times, on what is in the best interests of the child when you’re involved in custody litigation.