How long do family court orders last? Can they be modified or are they set in stone? In today’s blog post, we discuss who is eligible to request modification of a child custody and/or child support order, as well as the legal basis required to obtain such a modification. Keep reading to learn more.
Modification Petitions for Child Custody and Child Support
While court-ordered custody and support agreements are legally binding and generally last until the child turns 18 years old, it is possible to request for modification of an arrangement. The basis for modification in both cases is primarily a material change in circumstances that the petitioning parent has the burden of proving.
Changing a Child Custody Order
Child custody orders in particular may be modified in the incident of significant change. The court understands that a parenting time schedule that works while your child is a toddler may no longer work when that child becomes a teenager. Circumstances naturally change, and either parent can file a request to modify custody in West Virginia.
A judge will grant a modification only if there has been a material change in circumstances that impacts the child's best interests, which include factors like:
- the child's relationship with each parent;
- the child's age, physical, and emotional health;
- the child's physical, emotional, and educational needs;
- the child's relationship with siblings and extended family members;
- the child's adjustment to home, school, and the community;
- each parent's history of caretaking responsibilities for the child;
- the parents' relationship with each other;
- each parents' willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent;
- either parent's history of domestic violence, if any;
- the parents' geographical proximity.
Some examples of changes that warrant a child custody change are if one parent takes a job requiring constant travel or relocates internationally. However, it is ultimately your child's best interests that will determine whether the judge will grant a modification.
Changing a Child Support Order
Similarly, parents may also petition for modification of a child support order if they can show a change in circumstances. More specifically, either party has the right to ask for a review of their existing child support order after the order became effective or, if they can show a substantial change in circumstances. Note that the review may find that the amount should be decreased, increased, or stay the same. This means it is quite possible that the court may actually change the agreement to require you to pay more support despite your request otherwise if it finds this to be appropriate. In order to ask the court to award less, the parent will need to convince the judge that the guidelines are unjust or inappropriate in their case. To make the final decision, the judge will look at many factors, such as:
- childcare expenses incurred by both parents;
- costs of medical/dental insurance;
- other factors consistent with the best interests of the child (above).
If the paying parent loses their job and thus become unable to meet the support obligation, they should notify the court immediately about the job loss or if they now make less money than they used to. They should also notify the court if they become physically disabled and unable to earn an income. Afterwards, they should obtain an official order from the judge to temporarily or permanently reduce the obligation amount due to these reasons or eliminate future payments.
If you have experienced a change in circumstances and your child’s needs have changed, you have the right to modify an existing child custody and/or child support order. Our firm can guide you through the legal process and help you fill out all the necessary forms to request modification. We can also help you prepare your case for modification, crafting a compelling strategy that outlines material changes in your circumstances warranting such modification. Whether you are the primary custodial parent or the parent who is required to pay child support, we can help you through the modification process.
Contact us at Sutton & Janelle, PLLC for an initial consultation to discuss your next legal steps.