Should I file for custody of my child in Virginia?

Sometimes, it seems like filing for custody is a good way to stake your claim on your child and prevent your child’s father from getting any crazy ideas about who is going to be the primary custodian for your child.

In custody cases, you often have to ask yourself whether there really is a custody fight brewing, or whether you’re just stirring the pot. I’m always surprised at the number of women who are gearing up to make a pre-emptive strike against their child’s father when there’s actually no custody fight already in existence. Chances are, if your child has already been born and he’s not constantly fighting you for more time, you’re probably stirring the pot by filing a petition for custody.

Just because you and your child’s father aren’t married doesn’t mean that a custody and visitation arrangement generated by the court is an absolute must-have. If you’re able to get along and work out custody and visitation to the satisfaction of both parents, it is entirely possible to never go to court over it at all.

If, on the other hand, you’re having trouble negotiating a workable custody and visitation arrangement, or he’s taking the child and threatening not to bring him back, it may be advantageous to file for custody.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to have something official on paper. If you and your child’s father are getting along and handling your responsibilities together, it’s okay to just let things be. If he’s not involved but he’s paying child support, you don’t need to ask the court to make it official—you’ve already got custody, and you’re exercising it. You have to ask yourself what the benefit of legal action is, and what you stand to gain (or lose) by it. If you already have custody and you’d prefer that nothing about your arrangement change other than that you have a piece of paper saying that you have custody, it’s not worth the risk that you’ll make him want to fight back.

Don’t create a fight where none exists. File for custody and visitation if you find yourself in a position that you don’t know what else you can possibly do to facilitate things between you the two of you. Until then, sit tight, and hope for the best.

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