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Good-faith reasons to modify a custody agreement

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2024 | Child Custody And Support

There is a lot of comfort that comes from finally obtaining your custody agreement or order, as well as a sense of finality. However, for as long as your children are minors (under 18), their custodial arrangements can be subject to change. Under the law in Virginia, modification can occur if, since the last court order was entered governing custody, there has been at least one material change in circumstances that results in it being in the child’s best interests that custody change.

What is a material change of circumstances?

Material changes in circumstance can take many forms. One example is relocation. If co-parents want to move after a divorce, they may have to modify the custody order because that order was likely designed when they were living relatively close to each other, and this may need to change to accommodate the new situation. . Conversely, if a custody order was entered while parents were living far apart from one another, and the distant parent moved to be closer to the child, that can also be a material change in circumstance. If military members get deployed; they may be able to expedite a modification so that they can get a new custody order prior to the deployment. Parents should never move without a modification, as that could be a violation of the court order and may put their parental rights in jeopardy

But relocation is certainly not the only reason to modify a custody order. For example, a modification may be necessary when one parent is withholding visitation rights from the other parent, or if one parent is voluntarily foregoing large quantities of custodial time with the child. 

When considering whether to make a modification or not, the court will always look at the child’s best interests. For instance, a modification may be necessary if a child’s needs dramatically change, Courts also must consider the mental and physical health of the parents. If there has been a significant change, such as an injury or an illness, then modification may be necessary.

Are you seeking a modification of your custody order?

The key thing to remember is that the court doesn’t make modifications lightly. The court wants to make sure that the change is for a legitimate reason, not just to disrupt the current co-parenting arrangement. 

As you work through this process, things can get complicated. Always make sure that you know what legal steps to take so that you can resolve this dispute and avoid any complications.

Would the relocation harm the relationship between the child and the other parent? Where does the child live, where do they go to school and what extracurricular activities do they participate in? The court will consider a multitude of different factors.

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