Top 3 Things to Know About Modifying Custody in Virginia or Modifying Visitation in Virginia

Most divorce attorneys will attempt to negotiate a custody agreement that is going to withstand time. By this, I mean that a reputable divorce attorney will attempt to draft a custody order or visitation agreement that is specific enough to set forth clear terms and violations, yet fluid and flexible enough to take into account the fact that children grow older and circumstances change, and what parties can do in this case.

However, regardless of how much time, money and effort you and your attorney spent on drafting a solid visitation or custody agreement, it was done at a time when emotional and physical needs may have been different, or maybe, you didn’t anticipate the role that third parties would play in your child’s upbringing.

Based on our experience, most divorced or separated parents will need to modify their custody order or visitation agreement at some point.

  1. Best Way to Modify a Custody Agreement or Custody Order in Virginia

The most cost-effective way to modify your custody agreement or terms of a custody order is typically through a negotiated agreement or consent order between the parties and their respective attorneys. The moment an attorney steps into court, litigation expenses typically increase exponentially; however, some parties will just not be able to agree on terms of modification, regardless of how great their negotiation skills are, absent a judge’s ruling.

  1. When Divorced or Separated Parents Can’t Agree on Their Own: Going to Court

After a final decree of divorce or a final custody and visitation order has been entered by the court, parents may agree or petition the court to modify custody or visitation terms[i]. Parents who agree that a modification is necessary may devise a consent custody and visitation order that reflects the changing needs of the child and the parents.

If a parent wants to change an existing order and the other parent disagrees, he or she must petition the court by filing a motion to modify the order. Courts will modify an existing order if the petitioning parent can demonstrate that a “material change in circumstances” has occurred that makes the existing order inappropriate or impractical to the parties’ current situation.

  1. Filing for Contempt and Rule to Show Cause

Often, a rule to show cause or contempt order is necessary as a precursor or condition precedent to filing for modification. A Rule to Show Cause in Virginia is used to enforce an existing visitation agreement or custody order.

You need to consult with a divorce attorney to help you understand the procedures when the final divorce decree or custody order can is vague. Regardless of whether an order explicitly states or anticipates a penalty for violations of the parent’s rights, a parent who believes he or she is not being recognized by the other parent as a joint custodian can petition the court to hold that parent in contempt.

Alternatively, a parent can petition the court to modify custody and visitation based on a material change in circumstance, that circumstance being an utter denial of rights as a parent.

Fairfax Divorce Lawyer: If you’re looking for an experienced Virginia family law attorney or Virginia divorce lawyer, contact Keithley Law, PLLC today by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office.

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