A child custody and visitation plan generally specifies how much time each parent will spend with the child during the year and what decisions each parent is allowed to make on behalf of the child. If the child’s parents can come to an agreement through mediation, they can present their plan to the court for final approval. The court will review the plan and consider any factors it needs to determine custody. These factors may include:
- Child’s developmental needs based on their age and physical and mental condition.
- The relationship between the child and each parent.
- The relationships between the child and siblings, friends, and extended family members.
- The ability and willingness of each parent to continue to maintain a close bond with the child.
Can the custody and visitation plan be modified?
Once a parenting plan has been approved, it becomes a legally binding order that both parents must follow. However, the plan can be changed in certain situations. Generally, if both parents agree to the change, the order can be changed without court approval.
However, if only one parent wants to change the order, that parent will have to petition the court for a modification of the order.
In Virginia, the court will only consider granting the parent’s request for modification if there has been a material change in the family’s circumstances since the last order was entered and if the change will be in the child’s best interests.
Here are a couple of examples that may warrant a change in circumstances:
- If a noncustodial parent develops a drug/alcohol addiction, the custodial parent may seek to modify the order to limit the noncustodial parent’s right to visitation without supervision.
- If a custodial parent loses a job, changes to a different shift at work, or is unable to care for or financially support the child in any way, the other parent may seek full custody.
Once the modification has been granted, the terms of the new child custody order will go into effect. If another modification is needed in the future, you can file another request.