Father and sonThis is the second post in our series on how to change child custody in Virginia. Our first post provided a general overview of the topics we will be discussing in this series. In this article we will go over the crucial first step – understanding whether or not you are in a position where you can change custody. This is an area of the law that many Virginians have a misunderstanding; you cannot change custody simply because you want to. You must be able to show certain criteria or your request will be considered frivolous.

Modifying a Virginia child custody arrangement requires you to show that circumstances have changed since the last order was entered

Changing child custody in Virginia requires you to meet two requirements. First, you must show that there has been a “material change in circumstances” since your last custody order was entered. Second, you must show that a change in custody would be in the child’s best interests. If you cannot meet both of these requirements, your request will be denied.

You must be able to point to changed circumstances in order to request modification from a Virginia Court. Examples of changed circumstances may include drug or alcohol use by the other parent, a changing of the other parent’s work hours which prevent that parent from properly spending time with the child, the other parent’s having moved to an area with lesser quality schools than the child was previously attending, etc. Changed circumstances can also occur due to an improvement in your own situation. Perhaps your work hours have changed and you are now available to spend more time with your child; a change in your schedule may mean that joint custody would now be possible whereas before the other parent had primary custody. These are just a few examples of situations that a court may see as constituting a “material change in circumstances.”

Assuming circumstances have changed then you must show that modifying the custody arrangement will also be in the best interests of your child. Factors the Court will consider when determining what is in the best interests of your child include:

  • the nature of the relationship between the child and each parent
  • the ability of each parent to the meet the child’s needs
  • the ability of each parent to cooperate with the other
  • the physical and mental health of each parent
  • the need for the child to maintain a relationship with any siblings

These are just some of the things that the Court will consider when analyzing your request. The facts which constitute a “material change in circumstances” will directly impact how the Court looks at these factors. If, for example, you are seeking to change custody because the other parent has begun using drugs then that parent’s drug use likely means that they are unable to meet the child’s needs and also brings that parent’s physical and mental health into question. Again, your change in custody will not be granted unless you can articulate how it is in the child’s best interests.

Contact a child custody attorney immediately if you wish to modify your current order

Nothing is more important in our lives than our children. If you believe that your child’s best interests are served through a new child custody order then it is important that you contact a child custody attorney immediately so that you can present your case to the Court in as good a light as possible. Our family law lawyers assist people here in our city as well as those throughout Hampton Roads. Contact our office today to schedule your initial consultation.