A crucial part of the divorce process is the creation of a child custody order. When this takes place, there are careful considerations taken for the family. Divorce is a difficult adjustment for children, having to adapt to a new normal. Furthermore, the amount of time spent with your children will change. These unknowns are bound to cause stress in a parent’s life; however, child custody is not necessarily absolute.
You can, in fact, modify your custody orders. Life changes happen, meaning that adjustments may need to be made in custody or the parenting plan. Family Law Group can explain what you need to know about the steps in the custody modification process.
1. Understanding The Criteria
An essential first step in the process is to understand if your circumstances warrant a change in custody. While you may feel you have good reasons to modify your custody agreement, you must demonstrate specific criteria. In Virginia, you must first show that there has been a “material change in circumstances” since your most recent custody order. Second, as always, the change in custody must be in the child’s best interests, not yours.
When preparing, you cannot simply say that the circumstances have changed. Pointing out the specific circumstances is required to request a modification from Virginia courts. Examples of changed circumstances include situations such as the other parent getting a job that requires more time. On the other hand, maybe your situation has improved, allowing you more time and effort for your children.
While you may be able to prove a change in circumstances, you must also understand that your child’s best interests are always taken into consideration. These factors include:
- Relationship between child and parent
- If each parent can meet the child’s needs
- Physical and mental health of each parent
- Child’s need to maintain familial relationships
These are just some of the criteria that the courts will keep in mind when reviewing a request to modify child custody. Remember that each circumstance is unique and requires a different approach.
2. File a Motion to Amend or Review Order If Needed
After reviewing and understanding the criteria for modification, you can file a Motion to Amend or Review Order. When filing, you will need several essential pieces of information. For example, you will need the original court order information and requirements. Then, revisiting step number one, you will need to present the reasons as to why you need to amend your previous child custody order. After that, you will have the opportunity to describe the exact changes you want made to your custody order.
3. Consider an Attorney
You may be wondering if an attorney is required to file your motion for modification. Well, you do not technically have to retain an attorney for this process. However, an experienced family lawyer can help immensely with the process. There are nuances to the modification process that Family Law Group can help you understand. For example, your changed circumstances must have occurred after your last custody order. Furthermore, an attorney will have more experience and understanding of legitimate changes in circumstances.
4. Discovery Process
If the court agrees with your motion, they will most likely schedule an evidentiary hearing. This is an opportunity for both parties to present information proving why the child should remain in their custody. The extensiveness of this process depends on the parents and the severity of the case. Typically, the courts will trust involved attorneys to help gather all of the important documents and information, which is known as informal discovery.
5. Attend Evidentiary Hearing
After gathering information, you will have to attend the evidentiary hearing in Virginia court. The person who filed for a custody modification will have the opportunity to prove their change in circumstances and how they warrant a change of custody. Whether these circumstances are positive or negative depends on each case. The other parent will also have a chance to dispute any claims made by the other parent or present their side. After a rebuttal, the judge will make their final decisions, typically only taking a few hours.
6. New Ruling
There are multiple outcomes from the evidentiary hearing. For example, the judge could, in the end, decide that an alteration in custody orders could negatively impact the child. Another potential option would be a slight modification in orders, such as granting one parent more visitation than they originally had. Whatever the decision may be, it is made in the best interest of the child’s well-being.
Allow us to walk you through each step of the custody modification process by giving Family Law Group a call at (703) 552-5072 today!