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Are fathers at a disadvantage in child custody cases?

Women have long been thought of as primary caregivers. This belief has permeated child custody agreements, leading to years of favorable outcomes for mothers that may come at the expense of fathers.

Awarding custody to the mother simply because she is the mother is not the best way to approach child custody. Many courts are realizing this, and in an effort to avoid one-sided custody agreements, states across the country are pushing laws that promote shared custody.

What does Virginia law say?

In Virginia, the courts determine custody based on the best interests of the child. Often, this means shared parenting, but that outcome is not guaranteed. Factors such as the child's relationship with each parent and the child's wishes are taken into account, but ultimately the court has authority to make decisions it believes will benefit the child.

The state isn't among those pushing for change. However, the law does say that the courts will "assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children."

Is custody a problem for fathers?

Given how Virginia courts approach child custody, men should receive fair consideration. However, there are also decades of parental role stereotypes that complicate the picture.

One option to avoid leaving the decision up to a judge is to negotiate a custody arrangement. Often, this will be the easiest way to ensure the best interest of you and your children is fully considered.

We also know that isn't always feasible, which is why it's important to know what the law says, and what to expect if you are facing a court battle over your relationship with your kids.

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