When can dad lose custody in Virginia?

Posted on Aug 28, 2013 by Katie Carter

It’s a very rare thing for a parent to completely lose custody of their child. In most cases, because the courts feel so strongly that having two parents is in every child’s best interests, even deadbeat dads are reserved the right to visit with the child, and even if they never exercise that right.

Even if you have primary physical custody of the child, you won’t be able to make the choice that the child has no contact with his father. If you have a custody order in place, you’ll have to abide by that order, even if your child’s father is misbehaving or hasn’t been paying child support. If you don’t have a custody order in place, and your child’s father takes you to court to establish one, you’re going to be in a much, much better position to ask for primary physical custody if you’ve been allowing visitation to take place all along. One of the quickest ways to lose custody completely is by denying the other parent the opportunity for reasonable visitation. Either way, you’re responsible for making sure visitation is available. Of course, you can’t make him exercise it.

Unless things are really, really, really bad, you probably won’t be able to keep your child’s father away. I’ve only seen it happen in cases where there was some kind of physical or sexual abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, too, these things can be incredibly difficult to prove. Before you even raise these kinds of accusations in court, you’ll want ironclad proof—otherwise, you’ll just look like a vengeful mother who is alleging anything and everything to keep dad away from the kids, and you definitely don’t want that. It’s definitely dangerous territory. If you allege these things without real proof, you could do serious damage to your own case as well.

Furthermore, there’s no real way to remove the kids before they are physically or sexually abused or neglected. There is really nothing you could show to the court to prove that he will probably abuse or neglect the children at some point in the future. The worst part of these kinds of cases is that the abuse or neglect has already happened.

If he really is a deadbeat dad, termination of parental rights is a possibility. In most cases (again, in cases without abuse or neglect), you’ll have to get him to agree to this termination. A lot of times, dads won’t agree, even if they don’t particularly want to have visitation with their child. The upside (for dad) for having his parental rights terminated is that he no longer has a child support obligation. This is a very rare thing, though—most dads are unwilling to give up their rights.

If things didn’t work out between you and your child’s father, it’s only natural to feel anxiety, frustration, and, sometimes, anger when you have to deal with him later. If he’s fighting you over custody, it’s normal to wish he’d just go away. But, in most cases, your child’s father is going to remain a permanent part of your life (and, of course, your child’s life). It’s best to approach your custody case with this in mind.