You’re NOT Doomed: How to Face your Custody Case

When you’re unhappy, you can’t be the mother that your children deserve. When things don’t work out with the father of your children, you experience a lot of competing emotions. For most women, the most persistent and terrifying thought is “What impact will this have on my children?” And, worse still, “what if they never recover?” Most moms are even willing to stay in unhealthy, unproductive, unsatisfying relationships just for the sake of their children.

You need to know that it’s okay to end the relationship and that you shouldn’t feel guilty for insisting on getting the things that you need out of your own life. Your kids will be okay if you’re okay. It’s not good for you or your children if you stay just because you think that’s the best thing for them. When you’re unhappy, you’re not the best version of yourself and, as a result, you can’t be the mother your children deserve.

It’s not a bad idea, though, to think about what you’re up against before you set the wheels in motion. There are a lot of competing ideas out there about what custody law means in Virginia. I’ve heard moms say, “It doesn’t really matter what I do; moms never lose custody, anyway,” and I’ve also heard moms say, “It doesn’t really matter what I do; he makes more money than me and the judge will give him the kids, anyway.”

Neither one of those statements are true, and the most untrue part is “it doesn’t really matter what I do.” It absolutely DOES matter what you do, and if you are concerned that you’re headed towards a custody case, you’ll have to take steps in advance to protect yourself and your children.

You should know in advance that, although there is no legal presumption for mothers, that absolutely does not mean that you’re doomed with respect to custody. On the contrary, in most cases, fathers don’t fight and let moms have primary physical custody (not because the court ordered it, but because that’s what the parents agreed to). The court won’t favor the mother over the father or the father over the mother; both parents walk into the courtroom with equal footing. It’s up to you to demonstrate what makes you such an awesome mom and prove to the judge that you are the parent most deserving of custody, regardless of your gender.

Some moms think that, in order to show how truly awesome they are, they have to bash their child’s father. In most cases, that’s not a great idea. While it’s okay to express concerns about your child’s father’s parenting skills, it’s not a good idea to continually bash him to the guardian ad Litem or the judge. Instead, focus on the positives and what you can give to your child—and also emphasize that you understand how important ALL the child’s relationships are, including your child’s relationship with his father. Most importantly, remember that it DOES matter what you do and what choices you’re making now.

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