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Can a Virginia Juvenile Court Custody Order Be Modified?

Key Takeaways:

  • Parents can request a modification to their Virginia child custody agreement if circumstances change.
  • Virginia adheres to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
  • Parents must prove grounds and show a material change in circumstances to support their request to modify an existing order.
  • Virginia courts will always base decisions on what’s in the best interest of children.
  • Montagna Law has a deep understanding of Virginia’s juvenile court system and is committed to advocating for the best needs of the child and the parent.

Whether for a move or other circumstantial change, a parent cannot simply alter a Virginia custody agreement.The parent needs to go through specific legal channels and provide a valid reason. The Virginia courts will consider a change if it is in the best interests of the child.

Child custody issues are often difficult for both parents and children. Establishing a custody agreement involves at least some level of conflict and is often an all-out battle. As a law firm that has seen it all and helped families through the worst of it, we can say that a lot of this is totally justified. When family members can’t all live together, it’s bound to take an emotional toll on everyone involved.

We are here to help you with the practical challenges. For instance, the custodial parent may move out of state. If neither a parent nor the child continues to reside in Virginia, jurisdiction is determined as if the matter was going to be originally filed in Virginia. Thus, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) will come into play.

Montagna Law is well-versed in Virginia’s juvenile court system, with experience in child custody modifications. Our team is committed to advocating for your family’s interests and are ready help you. Contact our law office at 877-622-8100 to discuss your options.

What Constitutes Grounds for Custody Modification in Virginia?

Depending on the circumstances, you can request changes to an existing custody order, but your reasoning must meet specific criteria for your modification request for the court to consider granting it. These grounds are referred to as a “material change in circumstances.” Examples include:

  • A parent’s financial situation changes
  • Remarriage by a parent
  • Custodial parent is relocating to another state
  • New employment or work schedule
  • Death of a parent occurs
  • A parent exhibits signs of family abuse, substance abuse, violence, or other neglectful behavior

Essentially, you must prove your grounds for a custodial change in the current order support the child’s best interests in terms of their physical and emotional well-being.

The Best Interests of the Child: What the Court Considers

A juvenile or circuit court in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Newport News, or other Hampton Roads city does not use a clear formula to determine if a modification is in a child’s best interest. A Virginia court looks at a few factors when tendering its decision.

  • Age, gender, and preference of the child
  • Level of current care child needs
  • Physical and mental health of the parents
  • Existing relationship between child and parent(s)
  • Ability of the parent to provide the child with basic necessities, including clothing, food, shelter, education, financial support, and medical care

These are only a handful of considerations a court will evaluate. However, if the court agrees the material changes in circumstances you present benefit your child’s life, chances are you can get your order changed.

happy family being reunited

How to Prove a Material Change in Circumstances

A material change of circumstances must be significant enough to ask for a custody order change. The ability to prove a material change in circumstances will make the difference between your petition being approved or dismissed by a Hampton Roads court.

  • Present accurate facts
  • Demonstrate good reasoning to support your request
  • Provide proof for claims made (e.g., other parent is abusing drugs, is not providing for the child, or is abusive)

Working with an experienced Virginia family law attorney can have a positive impact on how your modification request is presented to the court.

How Does the UCCJEA Affect Jurisdiction of Custody Modification?

Although you generally begin a custody matter in juvenile court by filing a petition, to modify a previous custody order, you need to file a motion to modify the previous court order in the juvenile courts. Additionally, the initial ordering court will retain jurisdiction to modify its order if the child or one parent continues to reside in Virginia. Under UCCJEA, retaining jurisdiction in Virginia is generally determined if:

  • Virginia is the home state of the child.
  • Virginia was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the proceeding, and the child is absent from Virginia, but a parent or guardian acting as a parent continues to reside in Virginia.
  • A court from a different state fails to meet the requirements to exercise initial jurisdiction
  • Another state court decides Virginia is the proper forum and declines jurisdiction, so Virginia may exercise jurisdiction.

Finally, if no other state qualified under the UCCJEA to exercise jurisdiction or all other states who could satisfy the requirements under the UCCJEA to exercise jurisdiction have determined that Virginia is the better venue, Virginia may exercise jurisdiction over the child.

The Process of Modifying a Custody Order in Hampton Roads

To file a custody modification in the Hampton Roads area, follow these steps.

  1. Fill out Virginia Form DC-630, the “Motion to Amend or Review Order.”
  2. State the requirements of the current custody order when filling out Form DC-630.
  3. Include your proposed changes and provide reasons why you want to modify an existing court order.
  4. File form with the court clerk at your local Juvenile and Domestic District Court.
  5. Wait for a hearing date to be set.
  6. Notify your child’s other parent.
  7. Gather and assemble evidence to support your request.
  8. Attend the court hearing.
  9. Wait for a judge’s ruling to approve or deny the modification request.

Your knowledgeable Virginia family law attorney can provide you with the experience you need to present a strong case.

Parents signing a child custody agreement

Why Work With Montagna Law

Montagna Law prides itself on putting a priority on our client’s best interests. We’ve proudly served and represented Hampton Roads for half a century. When you work with us, you can expect prompt returns to your calls, regular updates, and transparency.


“I have been a client of Montagna [Law] since 2014. Because the customer service is exceptional, I have established a rapport with everyone in the office. As a customer for eight years, it is noted that this firm goes above and beyond for the clients.” — Eric E.

“I love that my concerns are ALWAYS addressed and my phone calls are returned. Great staff!!” — Sickler J.

Our Dedicated Team Understands the Nuances of Virginia’s Juvenile Court System

Montagna Law has several decades of experience in Virginia law, and our compassionate attorneys understand the difficulties and stresses associated with custody cases. Emotions can run high, and it can be hard to think clearly.

Working with an objective person by your side to advocate for you can make the process easier. If you are facing a custody modification, child support issue, or other issue with your custody arrangement or visitation order, call Montagna Law today at 877-622-8100 or fill out our online contact form. We’ll stand with you every step of the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Modify a Parenting Plan Without Going to Court?

You need to file a motion with a Virginia court to modify your child custody order for significant changes. In some cases, if both parents agree, and it’s only a minor change, there might be an alternative option. Speak to an experienced Hampton Roads family law firm.

How Long Does the Custody Modification Process Take in Virginia?

It is difficult to assess because each case is different and how full a court’s calendar will factor in. Generally speaking, the more agreeable parents are, the faster the process. Disagreements typically take longer to settle.

How Can I Prepare for a Custody Modification Case?

To prepare for a custody modification case, you’ll need to:

  • Document changes in circumstances
  • Present accurate facts to support your case
  • Provide proof
  • Seek legal advice
Will My Child Have a Say in the Custody Modification Proceedings?

The court may consider a child’s preferences, depending upon their age, maturity level, and if they can clearly articulate their reasons for their choice and why.

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