Societal norms concerning marriage and child-rearing have altered with time. Once people realized that a woman’s place was not “in the kitchen” or that a woman’s sole purpose in life was not to bear children, it opened up space for fathers to make their own claims for equal rights. One area they did so was child custody.
For a long time, society believed that children needed their mother more than their father. Divorcing fathers entered proceedings assuming that a judge would award the mother physical custody. In return for paying monthly child support, they, as the father, would get the right to take their kids to the movie theater on the weekends.
Virginia passed a shared parenting law in 2018
In 2018 Virginia passed a law to say that judges must give equal consideration to shared custody. Until that point, courts had shown a preference toward giving one parent sole custody the other visitation rights. Typically the mother got custody, and the father got visitation rights, although there were exceptions.
Virginia is not the only state to have made changes. Many states have adjusted their laws to reflect the evidence showing children benefit when both parents continue to play a significant role in their lives. Something which is hard when you only get to see your kids on the weekend.
Other states have gone further and made shared custody the starting point for any discussions. If one party wants to gain primary custody, they need to prove that shared custody would be harmful to the child.
Virginia’s new law does not mean getting shared custody will always be straightforward as a father. Yet, it certainly makes it easier than before.