As children grow older their interests and activities change. As time goes on, parents’ lives change too. Parents remarry, parents get new jobs that change their schedules, and sometimes parents have new jobs or new relationships that may lead to a relocation. As circumstances change, a custody or visitation order may need to change too to serve the best interests of the child. A parent can file with the court to modify custody and visitation orders.
Pursuant to Virginia law, a court that has entered a custody or visitation order may amend and modify the order as the circumstances and the benefit of the child may require. When determining whether to modify a custody or visitation order, the court will apply a two-part test: (i) whether there has been a material change of circumstances since the most recent custody and visitation award; and (ii) whether the requested modification would be in the best interests of the child.
The parent seeking modification of the order has the burden of showing first, a change in circumstance since entry of the last order, and, second, that a change in custody or visitation would be in the best interests of the child. According to statute and case law, a material change in circumstances is not limited to negative events that have occurred in the custodial parent’s life, but is broad enough to include positive changes in the circumstances of the noncustodial parent, such as remarriage, the creation of a stable home environment, an increased ability to provide financial and emotional support for the child, and so on. After the moving party establishes that material change in circumstances has occurred, the court will then consider the best interests of the child factors to determine whether and how to modify the order.
The attorneys at K. Page Kistler, P.C. have a lot of experience with custody and visitation modification cases. This is a common issue for parents that is being resolved on a daily basis with agreements between the parties, or by judges in our local courtrooms when the parties cannot agree.