Tag Archive for: child custody

Important Things to Know About Modifying a Child Custody Arrangement

The initial custody agreement you and a coparent agree on may not work forever. Life changes, and it’s important that custody arrangements change with it. However, getting a modification in a child custody arrangement can be a challenge. It’s crucial to know what the court will look for, why the court may be willing to grant a modification, and how to approach a conversation on this matter with your coparent.

Looking for help with your custody modification request? It’s time to talk to the team at Pence Law Firm about your options and next steps. Call us at 304-407-7852 to set up a consultation now.

Grounds for Modification in West Virginia

Each state takes a slightly different approach to child custody modifications, so looking into what West Virginia law says can be very helpful. To start, the person who is requesting the custody order must be prepared to show the court that circumstances have changed substantially since the previous custody order was put in place. They must show that the change they are suggesting is in the child’s best interests and will benefit them.

A substantial change in circumstances can look different in every single family. Perhaps coparents had agreed on a traditional schedule where one parent had the child most of the time, with the other parent having every other weekend and some holidays. If the primary caregiver has gone back to work and has a schedule that doesn’t allow them to have the child full-time, they may be interested in moving to a 50-50 schedule. Similarly, if the child initially stayed full-time with the mother due to nursing, the court may grant a change to a shared parenting schedule once the child is slightly more independent.

In the easiest custody modifications, both parents agree on the necessary change and sign off on it. In these circumstances, the parents often just sign off on the necessary paperwork and wait for the court to approve it. Note, though, that the court can deny any arrangement that it deems to be not in the child’s best interests.

There are scenarios in which the court may change custody even if circumstances haven’t materially changed. For example, an older teenager may want to live with one parent primarily, even if their situation hasn’t changed since the last modification. The court may also agree to a change if the parents have been splitting time in a way different than what is in their court order.

How to Request a Modification

The parent interested in changing custody—or both parents, if they are in agreement—can submit a Petition for Modification, which is available along with other family laws forms on the West Virginia Judiciary site. Be prepared to describe what changes you would like to see in the parenting plan, the circumstances warranting a custody change, and other relevant information.

From there, the form will be filed with the circuit court and sent to the other parent. You’ll receive a court date during which you’ll have a chance to make your case. If you and your coparent agree on the necessary changes, the judge may simply sign off on the order and handle your request that way.

What the Court Considers

When making a decision regarding a custody modification, the court looks into a wide range of factors. It’s important to remember that above all, the child’s best interests are the priority. To determine what is in a child’s best interests, the court may consider:

  • The child’s current relationship with both parents
  • How the requested change would affect the child’s relationship with both parents
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable and healthy environment for the child
  • The reason for the request
  • The preferences of the child if the child is old enough to voice their opinion

The court also generally prefers coparents to work out an agreement together. By approaching this conversation with a calm demeanor and a willingness to understand your co-parent’s point of view, you may be able to reach an agreement before court.

Facing Family Law Issues? Contact Pence Law Firm Today

If you have family law issues in West Virginia, it’s time to talk to the team at Pence Law Firm. We can help you learn more about your options and develop a plan. Reach out online or call us at 204-407-7852 to set up a consultation.

Establishing Paternity and Its Impact on Child Support and Custody

Questions of paternity can be painful and confusing to navigate. Perhaps you’re in a long-term relationship but not married, and you need to know how to get on the birth certificate as your child’s legal father. Maybe you’re questioning the paternity of a child you’ve raised as your own. You may have just found out about the existence of a child that is very likely yours.

No matter what has led you here, we’re here to help. As you figure out your next steps, turn to the team at Pence Law Firm to advocate for you. Call us at 304-407-7852 to set up a consultation now.

How to Establish Paternity

Paternity does not need to be established in every single case. If a child is conceived or born out of wedlock, during a separation, or during a divorce, you must establish paternity. However, even if you are married and the child was born during your marriage, you can seek to prove paternity.

There are several ways to go about establishing paternity in West Virginia. By following any of these accepted routes, you can be legally named as a child’s father. This enables you to seek parenting time and allows either party to establish child support. You can establish paternity by:

  • You can voluntarily acknowledge that you are a child’s father by signing a Declaration of Paternity Affidavit.
  • Either parent can verify paternity or determine paternity if it is in question by requesting genetic testing. The BCSE—Bureau for Child Support Enforcement—will order the genetic testing and send the results.

If you have been struggling to prove paternity because the other parent is resistant, you may wonder about your options if they refuse to submit to genetic testing or refuse to present the child for genetic testing. Once the BCSE orders genetic testing, it is a binding legal order. Should either party refuse, the BCSE can find them in contempt and go forward from there.

Paternity and Child Support

Once paternity has been established, either via the Declaration of Paternity Affidavit or genetic testing, the BCSE will set up a hearing to determine child support for the child or children in question.

In fact, child support is often the primary reason that a parent seeks to establish paternity. Potential fathers often have a lot of questions when this happens—what if they don’t want to be involved in the child’s life? Can they sign their parental rights away to avoid paying child support? What if the mother hid the child from them?

There are very, very few circumstances under which a legal father can avoid paying child support to provide for his child or children. The court will go to great lengths to ensure that the child receives the financial support they deserve, including seizing tax returns and garnishing wages. It is crucial to speak with a child support attorney if you are concerned about your obligations and your ability to pay.

Parental Rights and Custody

The good news is that establishing paternity does give the legal father substantial rights. Once he has been named as the legal father, he can request access to the child in order to build a relationship with them—barring extreme cases of abuse, substance abuse, or other scenarios that would put the child in danger.

If the child is young, visitation may depend on whether or not the child is breastfed and how long they can be away from their mother. Once they reach an appropriate age, a father can request additional parenting time.

If the child is older and the father has not been involved in their life until now, visitation may start gradually and slowly ramp up. This gives the child time to become comfortable with their father before moving to overnight visitation and even shared custody.

Take the Next Step in Your Family Law Case and Contact Pence Law Firm

No matter what situation you find yourself in, we are here to support you. Set up a time to talk to the family lawyers at Pence Law Firm now to talk about your legal options. Give us a call at 304-407-7852 or send us a message online.