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Are child custody modifications possible in Virginia?

On Behalf of | May 31, 2023 | Child Custody

Are you wondering if you can change your child custody and visitation order in Virginia? Maybe your situation has changed since the last time you went to court, or maybe you are not happy with the current arrangement.

Whatever the reason, you should know that modifying a custody and visitation order is possible, but not easy. Here are some things you need to know before you file a motion to modify your order.

Material change of circumstances

First, you need to show that there has been a material change of circumstances since the date of the last court order. This means that something significant has happened that affects the welfare of your child or your ability to exercise your parental rights.

Some examples of material changes are a parent moving to a different location, remarried or had another child.

Other examples include that the child’s educational or health needs are not being met, or that the custodial parent’s situation has changed such that it is not healthy or safe for the child to remain with that parent (such as homelessness, mental illness, drug addiction, etc.). Finally, other examples include the custodial parent has withheld visitation without just cause, a parent has violated the current order repeatedly and the child’s needs have changed over time.

Not every change is material enough to warrant a modification. For example, a minor increase or decrease in income, a change in work schedule or a normal development in the child’s growth may not be sufficient grounds for a modification.

Best interest of the child

Second, you need to show that it is in the best interest of the child to modify the current order. The court will consider several factors when making this decision, such as the age, physical and mental condition of the child, and the age, physical and mental condition of each parent.

The court also considers the relationship between each parent and child, and the needs of the child, including the important relationships with siblings, peers and extended family members.

Virginia courts also look at the role each parent has and will continue to play in the upbringing of the child, and each parent’s propensity to actively support the child’s relationship with the other parent. The court will also look at the willingness and ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child and each parent’s ability to cooperate in and resolve disputes with the other parent in matters affecting the child.

Finally, courts will look at the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such preference.