Essential Steps for Modifying Child Support and Custody in Virginia

Essential Steps for Modifying Child Support and Custody in Virginia

Jan 31, 2024

Navigating the complexities of child support and custody orders can be challenging. Every family, and every child, has different needs that should be addressed while also working within the framework of Virginia laws and statutes.

Custody orders are entered after consideration of a number of statutorily defined factors all focusing on the best interests of the child, while child support orders are typically entered using a guidelines formula taking into account each parent’s earnings and other income sources, custodial schedule, and costs of work-related childcare and health insurance. As circumstances change, however, there is often a need to modify these orders to better suit the evolving needs of each individual family.

The need for modification of child support and custody orders often arises from significant changes in a parent’s life or in a child’s life that seriously impacts any of the factors considered in making a determination as to custody or support, with a focus on the best interests of the child. This can include a change for the parent, such as a substantial change in income, relocation, or remarriage. The need for a modification can also arise material change to the needs of the children, such as changing educational needs and/or costs, healthcare, relationships, or other age-related needs. These changes can warrant a re-evaluation of both custody and support arrangements to ensure they continue to serve the best interests of the child.

Legal Standards and Criteria for Modification

In Virginia, the modification of both child support and custody orders requires a “material change” in circumstances. The parent requesting the modification bears the burden of proving that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. This change must be significant enough to justify a modification, and any modification to custody must be in the best interest of the child above all.

The Process of Filing for Modification

Initiating a modification starts with filing a petition for modification in the court. This petition should detail the changes in circumstances or the child’s needs and be accompanied by relevant supporting details and documentation.

Court Procedures and the Role of Mediation

Once the petition is filed, the court schedules a hearing where both parents can present their arguments and evidence. Legal representation can be crucial in these hearings, as an experienced attorney can effectively present your case and advocate for your interests.

Virginia’s family law system often encourages parents to reach agreements outside of court through mediation or negotiation, including the Collaborative process. These agreements can be more amicable and less adversarial, leading to solutions that are mutually satisfactory and in the best interest of the child. Once these agreements are reached, they can be submitted to the court for approval and become legally binding.

Preparing for the Modification Process

Preparation is key when seeking a modification of child support or custody orders. Gathering all necessary documentation is essential. This includes financial records, evidence of changes in the child’s needs, or any other relevant information that supports your case.

Understanding the financial implications of the modification process, including potential legal fees and adjusted support payments, is also important. Working with a family law attorney can provide significant benefits. An attorney can guide you through the legal process, help gather and organize necessary documentation, and represent your interests effectively in court.

Modifying child support and custody orders in Virginia is a process that requires careful consideration and preparation. It’s not just about financial adjustments or changing living arrangements; it’s about ensuring that the changing needs of children are met and that the arrangements continue to serve their best interests. Being informed and prepared is key to successfully managing these critical matters.

If you have questions or need any assistance concerning child support or custody, please contact Michelle Bieber at (703) 525-4000 or

This article is for informational purposes only and does not contain or convey legal advice. Consult a lawyer. Any views or opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily the views of any client.



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