This is the third post in our How to Change Custody in Virginia series. Our last post discussed under what criteria an existing custody order may be changed. In this post, I will be discussing how one can go about filing a Motion to amend an existing custody order themselves. I will also be discussing why it is beneficial to hire an attorney rather than handling a legal matter independently.
A Motion must be filed with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in order to modify a custody order
The first step in beginning the process of modifying an existing Virginia child custody order is to file a Motion to Amend or Review Order with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. If your custody order came from any other court, then you need to domesticate your prior order with the Virginia Courts. The appropriate form to file your own Motion, Form DC-630, can be found on the clerk’s website, and may be filled out and filed by anyone.
The Motion to Amend or Review Order requires several key pieces of information. It first asks for the original Court date and the exact requirements of the original Court order. It then asks for the reason in which you are asking to amend the original order. It then provides a space for you to state the proposed changes they would like to be made to the custody order. A hearing date is set once this Motion has been filed. The Opposing Party will be served documents stating your intention to modify custody and will be provided the hearing date.
It is beneficial to hire an attorney to file the Motion to Amend or Review Order
While it is possible to fill out and file the Motion without an attorney, consulting an experienced family law lawyer is recommended. The space provided on the form is limited, and the petitioner must be succinct and to the point with their arguments. As we have previously discussed, custody of a child can only be modified if a material change of circumstances has occurred since the previous Court Order. In your new Motion, you may not argue events that occurred prior to that trial date, and in order to be successful, the form must clearly outline a legitimate reason to amend custody; an experienced lawyer will understand what are legitimate reasons. If the Motion does not make a compelling argument, the Family Court Judge may dismiss your Motion outright and may further chastise you if it is believed you have frivolously wasted the Court’s time.
Our child custody attorneys understand what constitutes a “material change of circumstances” and what does not. We can make an argument in the new Motion that clearly explains your reasons for asking for a modification. If the situation is an emergency, your attorney will also know how to proceed and acquire a hearing date for as soon as possible. Filling out a Motion incorrectly or with arguments that are not based in fact may lead you to lose your chance of successfully having custody modified. For more information on the options available for filing a Motion to modify child custody, contact our office for a free consultation.