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Modifying Child Custody Orders in Virginia

Few things matter more than ensuring our children’s well-being. But what happens when circumstances shift, and the existing custody arrangement becomes unsuitable?

What Does Virginia Law Say About Child Custody?

The critical thing to remember about all child custody disputes in Virginia is that judges must make their decisions based on the child’s best interests. That’s obviously open to interpretation, but the Code of Virginia lists some factors judges must consider when deciding what is in a child’s best interests. Those factors include:

  • The existing relationship between the child and each parent
  • The age, physical condition, and mental condition of the child and each parent
  • The child’s general needs and existing relationships with other family members, friends, and mentors
  • The past and future role of each parent in the child’s upbringing
  • How well the child’s parents get along
  • The child’s wishes, within certain guidelines and limitations
  • Any history of abuse or domestic violence
  • Any other factors that the judge deems “necessary and proper”

Please pay particular attention to that last item, as it gives judges broad discretion to determine what is or is not in a child’s best interests.

Can You Modify a Child Custody Order in Virginia?

Yes, you can ask the courts to modify a child custody order in Virginia. However, getting a custody order changed can be a significant challenge.

Virginia law says judges can modify a child custody order if either parent requests it, if the court receives a petition from a probation officer or the Department of Social Services, or if the judge decides a change is necessary (even without a petition from another party). If a parent or state officials wish to modify a custody order, they must demonstrate a significant change in either the child’s circumstances or those of their parents. In other words, you need a good reason to modify the order.

Some of the most common reasons parents or state officials seek to modify child custody orders include:

  • Relocation of a Parent: If one parent is planning to move a considerable distance away, it might affect the feasibility of the current custody and visitation schedule.
  • Changes in a Parent’s Lifestyle: If there’s evidence that one parent’s lifestyle has changed drastically, it may warrant a custody modification, especially if the parent’s actions are detrimental to the child’s well-being (like drug abuse, criminal activity, or repeated neglect).
  • Alterations in the Child’s Needs: As children grow, their needs change. This can range from academic requirements to medical needs or the child’s emotional well-being. If one parent is better suited to address these new needs, a change in custody might be in order.
  • Inability to Stick to the Custody Agreement: If one parent consistently fails to adhere to the custody schedule or hinders the other parent’s rights, that might be grounds for reevaluating the existing custody order.
  • Domestic Violence or Abuse: The safety of the child is paramount. If there’s any evidence of abuse or violence in one parent’s home, it’s crucial to reconsider the current custody arrangement.
  • Changes in Parent’s Health: If a parent’s physical or mental health significantly deteriorates, making it challenging for them to care for the child, it might justify a change in custody.

It’s essential to understand that a minor change or short-lived circumstance typically won’t be enough for a court to modify a custody order. The change in circumstances should be substantial and enduring, clearly affecting the child’s best interest.

Our Virginia Child Custody Lawyers Are Here for You

Modifying an existing child custody order is a significant challenge that demands in-depth knowledge and experience. The Vienna, VA, child custody lawyers at Roop Xanttopoulos Babounakis & Klam PLLC have the drive and skillset to help you give your child the best possible life. Call (703) 442-0040 for a consultation.


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