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Understanding When a Virginia Beach Court Will Grant a Request to Modify Child Custody

Our Virginia Beach divorce lawyers always explain to clients that custody orders must be constructed to provide effective co-parenting during the divorce process because changing the arrangements later constitutes a much more difficult challenge.

Many parents embroiled in the divorce process consider child custody the most important issue to be resolved in their family law dispute. If you are in the process of divorce, you might experience intense stress. Because parents must deal with complex emotions and uncertainty about the future, they often agree to child custody arrangements that provide an acceptable short-term arrangement without considering the need for future changes. While the court has wide discretion to grant many types of custody orders during a divorce, this discretion is more limited after custody orders have been put in place through a divorce decree.

A fair number of parents attempt to obtain a modification of custody orders without the advice and representation of an experienced family law attorney. When parents pursue this approach, they face an uphill battle because modifying a custody order typically is more difficult than establishing an initial custody arrangement. The reason that changing a custody order can be more difficult is that custody orders in the judgment of a divorce or paternity action are considered to be “final.” Although child custody orders in a divorce (or paternity) judgment can be modified, a preliminary test must be satisfied, which requires a material change in the facts upon which the judgment was based. This means parents should never simply agree to the custody arrangement requested by the other side based on the assumption that it can be changed later.

Virginia Beach courts like other courts throughout the state use the best interest of the child standard to establish child custody orders. While this standard still applies to modification hearings aimed at changing custody orders in a divorce decree, the judge must first determine that a “material change in circumstances” has occurred before weighing the evidence related to the long list of factors that define the best interest of the child standard. The types of changes that are substantial and material enough to justify a modification can be difficult to identify and prove sufficiently to persuade the court to change the child custody arrangements in the divorce judgment.

In short, the modification of child custody in a judgment involves a two-step analysis:
(1) Has a significant change in circumstances occurred; and

(2) Would modification of custody orders be in the best interest of the child given the change?
The hesitancy of courts to modify the custody arrangements in a divorce decree is based on several considerations. First, judgments are intended to provide a “final resolution” of contested issues, so disputes do not drag on indefinitely without the predictability that a final judgment provides to parents. Second, the children face an enormous amount of change, instability, and upheaval during a divorce, so courts would like to maintain a status quo that is functioning reasonably well to provide children with some degree of stability and consistency. Third, parents have a motivation to diligently pursue workable and effective parenting arrangements during a divorce when they know that post-judgment changes to the orders might be difficult to pursue.

Because the court must find facts exist that satisfy the material change of circumstances standard, parents have much to gain by seeking legal representation prior to filing for a modification. Depending on your situation, an experienced Virginia Beach child custody attorney might determine that you lack sufficient facts to have a reasonable chance at success. While this opinion might not be what you want to hear, you can avoid squandering valuable financial resources pursuing a custody change that never had a reasonable possibility of success. Legal advice and representation can facilitate putting together the most compelling presentation of evidence to establish that a sufficient change has occurred and that modification of the custody arrangements would be in the best interest of the child.

While every case is different, some examples of facts or scenarios that might justify a change include:
• Decision of the custodial parent to relocate
• Remarriage of a parent
• Violations of the custody orders by a parent
• Child abuse or neglect
• Disability or serious illness of the custodial parent
• Intentional alienation of the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent

If you are considering seeking a modification of custody in Virginia Beach or the surrounding areas, an experienced Virginia Beach child custody attorney can review your situation and advise you regarding your legal options.

Co-opting your ex in Creating a Brighter Future for your Children Following Divorce

Experienced Divorce Attorney, Chesapeake, VA 

An experienced Divorce Attorney, in Chesapeake VA bestows a clear perspective on the gentle art of getting along with your ex for the sake of your children, following separation and divorce

The messy divorce is done with, custody battles are over, collateral damage is contained, finances are on a steadier footing, you have a bright new future laying out a red carpet for you, and everything is fine. Right? Well, not entirely. There’s the itsy bitsy problem of raising children as a single parent. You begin to realize that your children stand to gain enormously if you co-opt your ex in a co-parenting agreement, however obnoxious that thought may be, giving your kids the best care that you can jointly provide.

Overcoming the mental block, forgetting the past, ignoring the chasm of differences that separates you and your ex following a divorce and custody battle

Jointly parenting children in divorce is a great solution as far as the kids are concerned, but it could open a Pandora’s Box for you. It looks almost impossible getting back on speaking terms with the partner you deleted from your life a while back. But you have to admit, the stakes are high in overcoming mutual resentment, for the sake of the kids who deserve a better deal. Divorce lawyers in Virginia suggest you begin by firmly convincing yourself that the marriage is well and truly over, but you owe it to the kids to cocoon them in a brighter future. You could envision yourself breaking new horizons where the children become your number one priority, overruling objections to bring your ex back into the larger picture.

What do divorce children gain from co-parenting arrangements?

  • An emotionally secure foundation

Partners that have agreed on a divorce parenting plan and remain bonded, lovingly to their kids, create an ambiance that encourages children to adapt better to changing circumstances, and such children emerge with their self-esteem boosted.

  • The rewards of a disciplined life

Encouraging the ex to agree to a co-parenting calendar boosts family solidarity, and interpersonal relations touch an even keel. This encourages kids to learn to follow the rules, respect the routine, enjoy the rewards, and grow stronger by leading a disciplined life.

  • Optimized problem resolution capabilities

The very fact that you have partners adhering to co-parenting rules, and are still cooperating to look after their children, becomes a learning experience for the kids – a valuable lesson that problems can be resolved quietly and efficiently through teamwork, and overcoming interpersonal differences.

  • Inspiration from your personal example

The cooperation you solicit from your ex imprints itself on the child, setting the tone for their future growth and mental development, impacting behavioral patterns positively.

The minimum expected of partners following a co-parenting plan

The path is crystal clear, you will be ignoring your feelings of hurt or resentment towards your ex (the hardest part), and assigning top priority to the kids, and to their happiness and well being, making their future as safe and secure as is humanly possible.

The bonus will be on constructive behavior that benefits the kids

Preoccupied as you are with feelings of intense bitterness or simmering anger, the divorce attorney, in Virginia, encourage you to display constructive behavior with laser focus on doing what benefits the kids. The negativity that envelopes the divorce can be overcome through exercise, friends and therapy.

More than the ex, it is the kids that become the focal point

Whenever you feel overwhelmed by negative memories of your marriage, focus on photographic memories of your children, and take pride in having a greater say in their development.

Your body language will need dramatic improvement

Yoga and holistic mind body therapies boost co parenting skills, besides improving your body language, as you move on with your life unshackled by the trauma, physical and/or mental, that shook your bearings.

You will isolate your child from your issues

It is vitally important to acknowledge that the child has no role to play in perpetuating your resentments or hurt, and kids must be protected from the unpleasantness that resulted in divorce.

Co-parenting tips that help you deal tactfully with the ex, without ruffling feathers

De-stressing your vibrations with the ex

Yes, the incorrigible ex will push all the wrong buttons, getting you revved up the wrong way, but you need to exercise restraint. Place a cap on the stress you take on and learn to navigate your ex emotionally, all while you focus on your child’s well being. Talk frankly with your ex, laying the ground rules to clearly define co-parenting responsibilities so you know what is expected of each other. Never allow the conversation to drift to more personal areas unless it concerns the kids.

Maintaining dignity in all communications

Apply the charm offense and ensure that nothing untoward happens, and nothing regrettable is said in the presence of the child. Communicate in a non-adversarial and friendly manner.

Being businesslike and respectful

Whether it is making a phone call, dispatching an email, exchanging messages on social media or talking face to face, one of the most resilient tips for co-parenting suggests that you treat your ex with respect. Making sure your body language is stress free and relaxed, and communicating with the same enthusiasm you would show to a close friend.

Being more accommodating, less intimidating

Pepper the conversation with gentle requests like “Do you think this could solve the issue?”, “Could we try that solution?”, “Could you help us resolve this?” which do not become intimidating statements. Above all, don’t shy away from asking an opinion. Show you value your ex’s advice.

Being a good listener

Just like you, your ex will be equally anxious to play the parenting role to perfection, and being a good listener conveys the message that his or her opinions count, and their suggestions are respected. Single parents crushed under the burden of divorce with children need all the support they can muster, even if it means pandering the ex’s ego.

Being always on call

This is potentially the biggest task. Being available round the clock conveys the crystal clear message to the children that your world revolves around them, and you can set aside differences with your ex for their sake.

An apology sincerely delivered is an effective antidote to angst

An apology for past traumas inflicted dramatically shifts behavioral patterns from powerfully adversarial to spiritually elevating. It accomplishes what nothing else can – diffuses potential threats that mark relationships.

Contribute your time and attention lavishly

If the ex, or the kids, in divorce request you to spend an extra hour with them, so be it, it’s their wish, and their wish is your command. Chilling out with children heals the hurt and strengthens bonds.

Parenting through divorce, handling vital issues that impact the child’s future

  • Tackling healthcare needs

Facing a medical emergency alone or handling medical needs in isolation can be avoided if the ex can be co-opted in caring duties that primarily involve dealing with medical professionals, attending consultations and following doctor’s appointments.

  • Fulfilling educational needs

A brave new world revolves around the kids’ schooling, involving the faculty, elaborate teaching sessions, rigorous sporting events, extra-curricular activities and parent-teacher meetings where one or both parents can spare the time to be responsibly involved. Such participation can be mutually decided for the convenience of both parents. This will go a long way in laying out a stable educational foundation for the kids.

  • Handling personal finances

This could be the very problem that led to the divorce, and may continue to spread ripples post-divorce, but it would be gracious of both parents if they could arrive at a mutually agreeable plan for funding the child’s priority needs. Ideally, one partner could take care of education while the other helps in tackling health care and routine needs. In both scenarios, a budget needs to be set and carefully recorded to prevent future financial flare ups.

The Experienced Divorce Attorney, Chesapeake, VA

Beyond post-divorce decrees, it would be illogical to expect courts to involve themselves in tackling parenting issues. The best divorce lawyers in Virginia add a clearer perspective, contributing worthwhile suggestions that are not only practical but immensely helpful in mitigating child rearing problems that confront divorced parents. Experienced family law attorneys, skilled therapists and family professionals in Virginia can be solicited for help in introducing transparent and accountable measures that help partners involve their ex’s in child development.

Where, for example, an ex has serious mental and behavioral issues such as a borderline personality disorder (BPD) or bipolar disorder, a trained co-parenting counselling professionals could be engaged in executing post-divorce agreements. Where routine coexistence with the ex becomes problematic, parallel parenting techniques can be followed to ensure kids grow safely. Virginia divorce laws permit appointment of Guardians Ad Litem (GAL) to arrive at amicable co-parenting agreements that protect both partners and children.

Co-parenting brings dignity and respect to a broken relationship where the focal point shifts to the children that crave physical, emotional and financial support. The Experienced Divorce Attorney, Chesapeake, VA emphasizes unambiguously that the process of co-parenting involves tremendous personal sacrifices from the part of separated and divorced parents when they mutually agree to forge a semblance of solidarity, if only to protect and nurture their children.

Do’s and Don’ts for Virginia Child Custody Evaluation

When you and your former spouse cannot agree on how to set up child custody, you may find yourself in the midst of a child custody evaluation through the court. It’s very hard to approach child custody evaluation meetings naturally as you may be feeling the pressure to perform alongside your desire to be yourself. There are several things to keep in mind as you approach a Virginia Beach custody evaluation.

Do be honest about yourself when it comes to both strengths and weaknesses. No parent is perfect, and you should not paint yourself to be perfect, either. Be truthful about your current situation and answer questions honestly. Try to adhere to answering questions directly rather than using them as an opportunity to espouse your opinion. Take notes and make sure you follow up with any requested documentation or details that are asked of you. Finally, keep your mind focused on the most important aspect of a child custody evaluation, which is the best interests of your child or children.

Since the evaluation may have an important impact on your child custody decision, it can be tempting to throw the other spouse under the bus. Refrain from making negative comments about your spouse even though this can be difficult to do. Likewise, make sure that you are always on time for the appointments and that you never tell your children what to say or do in advance of these meetings. While the evaluation is pending, always comply with any existing custody orders. Finally, don’t attempt to manipulate or sway the evaluator. All too often, attempting this ends up backfiring and making an already polarized emotional situation even worse. A Virginia child custody evaluation does not have to be scary when approached appropriately.

What Does a Judge Consider in a Custody Case?

Virginia is like many states in that judges in child custody cases are instructed to look after the best interests of the children. Even though this is the guiding legal concept, it is subjective and depends largely on the circumstances of your case and the judge presiding over it.

One of the most common factors a judge will consider is the age of the children. It’s also important for them to evaluate the living situation of each parent and how that parent contributed towards caregiving prior to the divorce. Since divorce is already quite a disruptive process, some judges are not interested in further uprooting children if temporary custody orders seem to be working out. To learn more about temporary custody orders, your Virginia Beach family law attorney can provide insight.

Be aware that in a custody case, the judge is allowed to consider the extent to which you cooperate with the other parent or the extent to which the judge perceives your ability to cooperate. The court does not tend to look fondly on situations where one parent is trying to manipulate the children, the evaluator, or even the other parent.

The judge is also allowed to evaluate the children’s preferences. Particularly if the children are older, the judge may request to speak with them privately to learn about their preferences. If a guardian or custody evaluator is appointed in your custody case, this individual may also present their recommendations for where the children should be.

If you are concerned about the other parent’s ability, discuss this with your attorney. Do not bring it up with the custody evaluator or other individual. Your Virginia Beach family law attorney can inform you about the appropriate ways to share your concerns in the court.

Separation Agreements Virginia Beach

Novels and television shows have given people the impression that once the decision to separate and divorce has been reached, you have no option but to duke it out in court and let a judge decide everything. The fact is, any divorcing couple can – and likely should – at least try to agree about how to handle their separation without court involvement. For advice on separation agreements, Virginia Beach offers many experienced and competent attorneys who can guide each spouse towards a settlement that will be accepted by any court. The real question is how do you choose the right attorney for you? Linda Shin at Cedar Law Center can help you negotiate a separation agreement with your spouse in several ways: through mediation, through a team-based approach called Collaborative Practice, or through representation in a more traditional lawyer role.

A separation agreement is not a divorce. It is a contract between the divorcing spouses that seeks to settle all property divisions, custody issues, support arrangements, and any other aspect of the divorce to their mutual satisfaction. As a contract, is governed by contract law and has to comply with standard contractual terms: It must be signed without duress, it must be fully understood by both parties. If it is going to be entered as an order by a court, it must also be reviewed and accepted by a judge. For guidance on the preparation of acceptable separation agreements, Virginia Beach attorney Linda Shin offers a number of options that either you alone, or you and your spouse may want to hear about.

The power of the separation agreement is that it keeps control of the divorce within the hands of the people most affected by it: The spouses. While a judge will, of course, attempt to render a reasonable and workable divorce decree, when the spouses work together, they can craft an agreement that, when merged with the divorce decree, gives them complete control over their post-divorce life while keeping relations civil. Instead of arguing over every detail in front of a judge, the spouses negotiate through their attorneys and arrive at workable, sustainable solutions to each aspect of the divorce. While the court may adjust the terms of the agreement, this is uncommon. Call Linda Shin at Cedar Law Center today at 757-490-7802 to schedule an appointment or find out about an educational seminar you can attend to learn more.

Child Custody in Norfolk VA

Divorce is often a devastating experience for the entire family. Not only are both former spouses affected for the rest of their lives financially, emotionally, and in many other ways, but their relations and mutual friends are also included in the “blast radius” of a divorce.

Children, of course, often bear the brunt of the negative aspects of a divorce. Custody is often a bitter issue between spouses in a divorce, made worse by certain assumptions people make about it. If you need advice on child custody in Norfolk VA practicing attorneys like Linda Shin at Cedar Law Center offer the advice you need to keep your understanding and expectations on track and to set straight inaccurate assumptions like:

  • Physically caring for a child is the same as having custody. This is incorrect; even if you are the primary caregiver for a child, if a previous court order gave physical custody of the child to the other parent, you may still be subject to the terms of the previous order when it comes to child support and other issues that you may not have thought about.
  • Custody is necessary to get child support. This is partially true. If custody changes from one parent to the other, but back child support is owed to the first parent, the second parent will have to keep paying until the back balance is paid off. It’s also untrue that a hearing about custody of the child will automatically include child support. While the two issues are usually considered together by a judge, they are not directly tied to each other.
  • A custody order is required. Also untrue. A divorcing couple can come up with their own informal arrangements for their children which will be perfectly legal as long as the child’s best interests are being served. In these cases, the court never renders a judgment on the question of custody at all.

You need advice on child custody in Norfolk VA, call attorney Linda Shin today at 757-490-7802 for an appointment or to find out about educational seminars that will help you understand custody in the Commonwealth of Virginia –it’s in everyone’s best interests that you do so.

 

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