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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.

Divorce and Your Children’s College Funding

Figuring out your divorce is one of the hardest things you’ll ever go through. Not only do you have to consider your and your children’s immediate needs, but you also have to plan for needs that are still years away. For example, college funding—the cost of college has risen far more quickly than pay levels in recent decades, forcing parents to save an ever-larger portion of their income to pay for their children’s education if they don’t want them to rely on student loans. Figuring out who’s responsible for what is especially hard during a divorce.

Wondering how to protect your children’s best interests as you negotiate your divorce? Choose the team at Pence Law Firm for your divorce case. Give us a call at 304-345-7250 to set up a consultation with our team of Charleston divorce attorneys.

Negotiations During Divorce

A big part of your divorce is negotiating. You’ll negotiate everything from the family home and your retirement accounts to child custody and child support.

You may wonder how paying for college plays into that. Some states do require parents to fund their children’s post-secondary education as part of their divorce agreement. However, West Virginia is not one of those states. You cannot demand extra money in child support to cover college expenses, nor is either party required to contribute to their children’s college expenses.

However, this doesn’t mean you don’t have any options. Almost anything can be negotiated in divorce, and if your children’s college plans are a top priority for you, you can advocate for them. Be aware that you may have to give up other assets or make other sacrifices if you want your ex-partner to contribute to your children’s college fund. For example, you may agree to a smaller share of the marital assets or take less money in alimony to ensure that your children’s educational needs are met.

Saving for College for Your Children

There are several different ways you can contribute to your children’s college accounts. One popular option is 529 plans. These types of college savings accounts have tax benefits, and they can only be accessed for approved educational expenses. This protects both parties from unauthorized withdrawals and ensures that the child can only access the money for their college needs. In many cases, both parents make contributions throughout their little one’s childhood to get the account to where it needs to be by graduation. But if one partner outlearns the other by a significant amount, it may make sense for one parent to pay for college in its entirety.

Legal Concerns

Divorce is rarely easy, but with a little bit of planning and patience from both parties, you can navigate these issues with minimal stress. First, do your best to keep the lines of communication open. You both want what is best for your children, it’s just a matter of coming to an agreement about what that means.

It’s best to protect yourself from every possible negative outcome in scenarios like this. For example, some divorcing couples opt to create a joint savings account to which they both contribute money for their children’s college. This may make sense to you if you believe you can trust your ex-spouse not to touch it. That doesn’t change the fact that legally, both parties can withdraw from the account at any time. Right now, you trust your ex-spouse not to misuse your child’s money—but you never want to find yourself in the position of checking on your child’s college account and finding it empty. Contributing to a fund that can only be accessed by the child for educational purposes is the best way to protect everyone involved.

You should also be aware that college savings agreements require additional communication with your ex-spouse. If you’re in a high-conflict divorce and you want to limit communication as much as possible, a college savings account may just be another way for your ex to contact you.

Protect Your and Your Children’s Future with Pence Law Firm

When you’re ready to move forward with your divorce, make sure you have an attorney you can trust. The team at Pence Law Firm is committed to helping you plan for the next chapter of your life. Call us at 304-345-7250 or reach out online to set up a consultation now.

Dealing With the Holidays After a Divorce

The aftermath of a divorce is incredibly painful, and it’s even harder during the holidays. If this is your first holiday season since getting divorced, you may be wondering how you can navigate this time with minimal stress and sadness. Although this will likely still be a hard time of year, with a little bit of preparation you can make the most of this year.

If you’re still in the midst of figuring out your divorce, don’t tackle it alone. Let the team at Pence Law Firm support you. Call us at 304-345-7250 to set up a consultation with our Charleston divorce team right away.

Preparing Yourself Emotionally

First, it’s important to prepare yourself emotionally for the roller coaster you’re likely to experience this holiday season. It’s completely normal to feel nostalgic about holiday memories with your ex-spouse, the traditions you shared as a family, and the decorations you purchased together. It’s also normal for that to swing to grief and depression as you realize that holidays won’t look like that anymore. 

What’s important is that you give yourself space to feel all of these emotions and let them pass through you naturally. Trying to force the negative emotions down or only allowing the positive emotions to come to light is a sure way to make the holidays even more painful.

Basically, the goal is to have realistic expectations for what this holiday season will look like. Recognize that it will probably not be your favorite year, but that happier years do lie ahead. All you have to do is get through this one, make it as memorable as you can for your children, and give yourself grace.

Reviewing Your Court Documents

Before you get too deep into your holiday plans, make sure you know exactly what your legal rights and obligations are this year. It’s common for ex-spouses to rotate holidays with their children, so ensure that you know whether you have odd-numbered or even-numbered years. If you have a different arrangement, go over it carefully. It can be challenging when the holidays fall on a weekend because weekend visitation can be a sore subject for newly divorced parents. However, holiday schedules generally override the standard weekend schedule. Looking this over now will prevent misunderstandings later.

Appropriate Communication with Your Ex-Partner

Try to limit communication with your ex-spouse. Even if you have an amicable relationship, you don’t want to get bogged down talking about old holiday memories that will leave you sad long after the conversation has ended. Set a standard of friendly, open communication that relates to your children. You should communicate about which gifts the children want and who will get them, as this avoids repeats. 

You can also talk about your holiday plans and ensure that the children get to participate in the events that mean the most to them. If your relationship allows for flexibility, be open to schedule changes that don’t limit your time with your children but do give them the opportunity to attend important events with their other parents.

Establishing New Traditions for Your New Life

This may not feel like a fresh start, but it truly is. This is likely the hardest holiday you’ll have for a very long time, so just do what you must to get through it. Spend some time dreaming about the holiday seasons to come, the memories you hope to make with your children, and the new opportunities that will come your way. This is an excellent time to start thinking about new family traditions you’d like to make part of your holidays moving forward. 

Perhaps a new special meal, community event, or shopping day will become the highlight of your holiday season. There’s room for your children to enjoy their previous holiday traditions, turn them into new ones, and explore fun new things to do with their parents.

Preparing for Divorce? Contact Pence Law Firm

When you choose the team at Pence Law Firm for your divorce, you can feel confident that we’ll advocate for you every step of the way. Explore your legal options now—call our team at 304-345-7250 or reach out online to set up a consultation at our Charleston office.