Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Questions

You're probably full of questions right now—and that's okay, because we have answers! Check out some of the questions we hear the most about bankruptcy, divorce, and child custody from clients just like you.

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  • Can My Child Support Amount Change? If so, how often?

    You notice your ex is starting to wear fancier clothes, and just bought a brand new car.  Your kids come home from a weekend at Dad's and tell you all about the exciting things they did because daddy has more money.  You suspect your ex may have gotten a significant pay raise - when is it ok to ask for more child support money?

    The court system does not automatically monitor wages for you or your spouse, and therefore support orders do not automatically change in accordance with income fluctuations.  A parent must request for a modification to be made if certain criteria are met.

    What criteria would warrant a change in support?

    Change of circumstances.  If one parent experiences a significant increase OR decrease in pay, normally at least 25%, they would likely qualify for a support modification.  If a parent inherits money or has an increased ability to support the child through another avenue, they may be asked to increase support.  Adversely, if the supporting parent loses his/her job, the court may allow for support payments to be suspended during unemployment. 

    The child’s needs grow.  Often as a child grows, their expenses for clothes, food, etc. grow as well.  Perhaps the child becomes ill or disabled, and now you’re met with paying for pricey medical accommodations and other medical bills.  These types of situations would typically constitute a support modification. 

    It’s been a long time since the order was placed.  If it’s been several years since the child support order was put in place, it’s likely you or your ex meet some of the above criteria.  It might be a good idea to have the case reviewed to see if a modification is feasible. 

    Make sure you are able to provide evidence that there is a good reason for a change before filing with the court. 

    For a current listing of the child support tables, click

    If you need help with a change in custody or visitation due to a change in circumstances, I can help you.  Call me today at 757-276-6555!

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  • My Ex and I Never Married, Who Gets Custody?

    Unmarried couples have a less complicated separation process than divorced couples, and typically custody is simplified as well.  In Virginia, the mother is usually awarded sole physical custody unless the father takes action to secure some form of custody.  An unwed father may need to establish legal paternity by taking a DNA test before custody will be considered. 

    The unmarried couple can establish a parenting plan that will be filed with the court, detailing custody and visitation as well as health care, education, religion and how to handle potential changes to the arrangement (someone gets married, someone moves).   If the couple cannot agree on the terms above, one or both may request that the judge decide the issues at a contested hearing.

    The Court will based it's decisions on custody and visitation using the standard of what is in the best interest of the child and who has been the primary caregiver for the child.  Factors considered include the mental/physical health of both parents and child, parent’s lifestyle, parent’s ability to provide food, clothing and shelter, the emotional bond between parent and child, and the child’s preference. 

    If you’re not sure how you line up with the courts guidelines that grant primary custody, here’s a simple checklist that shows what is taken into consideration when deciding who has been the primary caregiver:

    Who was usually responsible for the following:

    Task Mother Father Shared
    Feeding Infant _____ _____ _____
    Changing Diapers _____ _____ _____
    Holding/Cuddling _____ _____ _____
    Preparing Meals _____ _____ _____
    Doing Laundry _____ _____ _____
    Buying Clothing _____ _____ _____
    Grocery Shopping _____ _____ _____
    Packing Lunches _____ _____ _____
    Bathing _____ _____ _____
    Brushing Teeth _____ _____ _____
    Putting to Bed _____ _____ _____
    Helping with Homework _____ _____ _____
    Taking to Doctor _____ _____ _____
    Taking to School _____ _____ _____
    Coaching Sports Teams _____ _____ _____
    Hosting Play Dates _____ _____ _____
    Playing _____ _____ _____
    Teacher Conferences _____ _____ _____


    If you are unmarried and need help setting a custody dispute, I can help you!  Call me today at (757) 276-6555!

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  • What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody?

    In Virginia, there are two types of custody that the court will deal with in a custody case: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions about the child. A court will often award joint legal custody which means that the parents are supposed to cooperate in co-parenting the child. When the parents have joint legal custody, they are supposed to discuss major decisions like elective medical treatment, private school versus public school, extracellular activities, and religious affiliation. Whenever possible, the parents should try to come to an agreement on these decisions.

    Physical custody is who the child lives with for the majority of the time. This parent is normally referred to as the custodial parent. The custodial parent makes the day-to-day decision regarding the child but has the responsibility to keep the non-custodial parent up to date on what is going on with the child. Both parents have a right to the school records and to attend parent-teacher conferences.

    It is best for the child if the parents can work together on issues regarding the child. If you need assistance in setting up a parenting plan for your child or children, contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-276-6555.

  • What are visitation rights?

    When you are trying to create a child custody plan that works for both parties, as well as the child, the topic of visitation may be put on the table. Visitation relates to the "physical custody" portion of a custody agreement, which is where the child lives on a daily basis.

    If one parent is granted sole physical custody, the other parent should have visitation rights. This means that although that parent is not responsible for the day-to-day care of the child, there are still designated days that the parent will have the child. It is also possible for parents to share joint legal custody—making important decisions together regarding education, religion, and medical care—but then have one parent with sole physical custody and the other with visitation rights.

    Parents do not have to agree on a set visitation schedule, though it is certainly helpful for everyone involved. A fairly regular visitation schedule gives the child some consistency and prevents unnecessary arguments between the parents. A very common visitation schedule is for the noncustodial parent to have the child every other weekend, but again, this does not work for everyone. Any visitation schedule should also address holidays, birthdays, and school vacations. It is very common for parents alternate holidays, for example, the child spends Thanksgiving with one parent and Christmas with the other parent one year, and then the next year that is switched.

    Courts will rarely deny a parent visitation rights unless there are extreme circumstances. Because judges believe that both parents should be able to maintain a relationship with the child, they will usually change normal visitation to supervised visitation if there are any concerns about the noncustodial parent.

    If the custodial parent makes it difficult for the non-custodial parent to exercise their visitation rights, the Court may modify the custody to include changing the custody of the child to the other parent. This may apply whether the custodial parent is refusing to allow the visitation or if the custodial parent has made the visitation more difficult by moving out of the area.

    Visitation is also not limited to noncustodial parents. Virginia law allows anyone with a true interest in the child to request visitation; this includes grandparents, stepparents, ex-stepparents, and other family members.

    If you are looking to work out a child custody agreement and visitation schedule, contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-276-6555 today for a consultation!