If you are an unmarried father to a young child (or even an infant) it may be particularly frustrating to be kept from seeing your child by an angry or vindictive mother. After all, you are not running from your responsibilities, you are working and doing the best you can to provide, and you are listed on the child’s birth certificate as the biological father. Yet you are essentially subjected to being a glorified babysitter.

So what can you do? After all, you must have some rights, right?

To a certain extent this is true. Unmarried fathers must petition the court to have their legal rights to custody and parenting time established. This is because under Virginia law, a mother has both sole legal and sole physical custody of a child born out of wedlock. This means that she has the legal right to dictate who is entitled to see the child, and when parenting time or visitation may occur, (even though it may not work to her advantage later).

So when you feel like you are being treated like a second class citizen when it comes to spending time with your child, there is something that you can do about it. Indeed, the process may be long and change does not come easy, but it is certainly worth the time and effort that you put into it. If you have questions about how to protect your rights before being denied parenting time, or if you need more information and guidance about how to begin the process, an experienced family law attorney can help.