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How Virginia parents can modify their child custody order

When you and your ex got divorced, you negotiated a child custody arrangement. Maybe you were satisfied with the terms of the custody order at the time but now want to make changes. Or perhaps you never felt the plan was right for your children or yourself.

Whatever reasons you have for being unhappy with your child custody order, Virginia law allows you to modify it in some circumstances. Here is what you need to know as a Falls Church parent about post-decree child custody modifications.

The child custody question parents must answer

The key question in any proposed child custody modification is, has there been a material change in circumstances since the court issued the order? A material change can refer to many things, such as:

  • Changes in the child’s medical, emotional or educational needs
  • One parent repeatedly violating the terms of the order, such as by refusing to transfer the children to the other parent for visitation time
  • Adverse changes in a parent’s life that impact their ability to care for the children, such as drug addiction or a criminal conviction
  • Other types of changes in the parent’s life, such as moving out of state, improved financial circumstances, and remarriage

Any of these developments could be a reason to change the custody arrangement. For example, a parent’s new inability to provide a safe and nurturing home for the kids could cause the court to change the order from a shared custody arrangement to sole custody for the more stable parent, with limited visitation rights for the first parent. Or if a parent with visitation rights has gotten married again and moved into a house with extra bedrooms, that could be a reason to start shared custody.

What parents can do about a modification dispute

When the parents agree to modify their child custody arrangement, the process can be fairly simple. But parents often disagree on what is best for their kids. When a dispute arises over a possible custody modification, each parent would benefit from an experienced family law attorney’s advice and advocacy.

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