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When is it time to modify your child custody or support order?

Most couples who divorce or separate while their children are minors will each have custodial access. Virginia’s family laws aim to meet the best interests of the children as much as possible, and there is a presumption in favor of assuring children frequent contact with both of their parents in order to preserve both parental relationships. Similarly, most couples who divorce or separate with minor children will owe a support obligation to their children. Virginia’s child support guidelines help determine how much support each parent must provide, and to which parent the difference between those sums is paid.

Custody orders often contain specific terms to help parents share parental responsibilities and support their children and one another as their family changes. Child support orders contain specific terms regarding how much support is paid, to whom, and how the parents will be responsible for things such as unreimbursed medical expenses (like, for example, braces). However, there may come a time where the terms set in your parenting plan or the amount of child support ordered at the time of your divorce/separation may no longer fit your children’s needs or best interests.

Perhaps one of your children has suffered a severe accident and has much higher medical and child care costs than they did before. Maybe your income has been drastically increased or gone down. Maybe one of the parents has moved far away for work obligations. Are you able to ask the Virginia courts to change your custody order or child support order?

Virginia law authorizes the courts to make modifications as necessary

Under state law, either parent has the option of requesting a modification of a custody or support order when there has been at least one material change in circumstance. Then, once you have claimed that there is a material change in circumstance requiring modification of your order, you must also be prepared to show that the modification you are seeking is in the child’s best interests.

For custody modifications, a material change in circumstance could be a relocation, a significant change in one parent’s ability to provide stable care (for better or worse), or even a meaningful passage of time resulting in the child getting older. For support modifications, a material change in circumstance could be a job loss through no fault of your own, a parent’s promotion, or a child’s emancipation. These are not exclusive material changes, just examples to help guide you in assessing whether you may want to request a modification.

You can agree with your co-parent about the necessary changes

Sometimes, modification hearings involve the parents fighting intensely over the proposed changes. Other times, they may cooperate with one another because they both agree about what changes need to happen.

You can file a contested modification and ask the courts to review everything and make a determination. You can also file an uncontested modification with the support of your co-parent that could speed up the process of making those changes official.

Understanding if you have grounds to request a modification could help you update your Virginia parenting plan, custody order, or support order to make it more workable for your children. The experienced attorneys at Maddox & Gerock, P.C. are available to meet with you and discuss your children and family in order to assess whether it is appropriate to seek a modification of your current orders.

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