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For Mothers: How To Get Physical Custody of Your Children

The question of child custody is often the most sensitive and delicate part of any separation. A considerable amount of thought and consideration goes into creating a custody and visitation arrangement that, ultimately, is in the children’s “best interests.” It is not uncommon, though, for certain parts of the agreement to be revisited from time to time. 

If the circumstances of you, your children, or the other parent have changed, you might want to think about petitioning for what’s called a “modification.” A modification is, essentially, what it sounds like: a change to any part of the agreement. 

Common Reasons for Modifying Child Custody Orders:
  • The needs of the children have changed. Over time, a child might reconcile or reconnect with one parent or other family member that makes a modification in custody and visitation sensible. Children also develop interests or, sometimes, medical needs that necessitate a change in custody and visitation. 
  • The other parent has created an unsafe home environment for their children. The safety of your children is paramount in the “best interests” legal doctrine. Suspecting that the other parent is being abusive toward your children, participating in illegal activity, or abusing harmful substances are all good reasons for requesting a modification. 
  • You or the other parent wish to relocate. If the other parent has primary physical custody and has accepted a job out-of-state, for example, you should strongly consider requesting physical custody in order to stop the children’s relocation
  • You have improved the state of affairs in your household. You can show that you have a more secure financial situation, for instance, to be able to care for your children. 

The four situations listed above can be considered a material change in circumstances.  Generally, Virginia courts will only approve a child custody modification if it is in the best interests of your children AND you can show that there is a material change in circumstances. Each particular motion for modification is fact-specific and must be considered on a case-by-case basis

How to Start the Process

The ideal situation is for both you and the other parent to agree to a modification. Then, you simply draft the request for modification (called a Motion to Amend)  and attach the new, agreed custody arrangement and ask for a judge to approve it. If that is not the case for your situation, you the Motion to Amend with the appropriate clerk’s office. The court will set a hearing, at which you and the other parent may present evidence to support your respective sides. Shortly after, you will receive a decision. It is imperative to have an experienced family law attorney by your side during this process. 


The majority of the time, children benefit greatly from having both parents involved in their lives. The team at Norton Pelt will fight for you and help you obtain physical custody of your children. Call our firm at 540-440-7007 to get started on your consultation.

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