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What are the steps for modifying a child custody order in Virginia?

Obtaining a custody order is crucial for the protection of parental rights after a divorce or breakup. It is common for the courts to establish a temporary order as soon as someone files initial paperwork and then a final order after a more thorough review of family circumstances.

Once the courts have approved a final custody order, the parents in the family need to uphold that order to the best of their abilities. They generally need to communicate with one another about major decisions and exchange custody on time as outlined in the order. Sometimes, parents realize that their custody arrangements no longer meet the needs of the family. They may then want to obtain a custody modification.

What are the necessary steps for formally modifying a Virginia custody order?

Discussions with a co-parent

One of the first stages in custody modification involves communication. When a custody order has become outdated, parents might agree about the need for a modification. The entire process can be very quick and simple if they move forward with an uncontested modification together. The parents can submit paperwork to the courts requesting an update of the custody order. If they do not agree, then additional steps may be necessary.

Validating eligibility for a modification

Uncontested custody modifications are theoretically possible any time that parents agree that changes are necessary to make a custody order work. However, Virginia law imposes limits on contested or litigated modifications. Typically, they are only an option when there has been a substantial change in family circumstances. The parent requesting the modification needs to look carefully at the situation to affirm that family relationships or schedules have changed enough to warrant a custody hearing.

Establishing specific modification requests

The parent filing a request for a modification hearing typically needs to include details about the terms that do not work for their family and the changes they would like to see made to the custody order. They may also need to put together evidence supporting their claim that those changes are in the best interests of their children. Depending on the reasoning behind the modification request and the types of changes suggested, evidence could vary from medical records to police reports.

Pursuing a formal custody modification can be a lengthy process, but it can also potentially improve custody arrangements for a family. Parents who know what custody modifications require may feel more confident about going back to family court to adjust their co-parenting arrangements.