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.