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  • John C. Whitbeck, Jr.


    John C. Whitbeck, Jr. practices in the following areas of law: Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Mediation, Arbitration, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Criminal Law, DUI/DWI, Reckless Driving, All Felonies, All Misdemeanors, Juvenile Crimes, Mental Health Law, Civil and Business Litigation, Construction Litigation, Education Law, Election Law, Debt Collection, Consumer and Lemon Law.

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  • Ruth M. McElroy


    Ruth M. McElroy practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Pre and Post Marital Agreements, Domestic Violence, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Juvenile Crimes, Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes, Traffic Offenses, Debt Collection, Civil and Business Litigation. She serves the Virginia Court system as a Guardian ad litem.

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  • Jennifer D. Cisneros


    Jennifer D. Cisneros practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Estate Planning, Wills and Probate, Trusts, Civil and Business Litigation and Debt Collection.

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Can Out-Of-State Courts Modify My Child Custody Order?


Child custody disputes are some of the most tumultuous issues that can arise during divorce proceedings and other family law hearings. When parents are awarded custody or visitation rights, the sense of relief they that comes with the ruling may be short lived as they begin to wonder whether their child’s other parent may attempt to modify the order at some point in the future.

Custodial parents should understand it is fully within the non-custodial parent’s right to petition Virginia courts to ask for modifications to child custody orders. However, these petitions are not automatically granted and the petitioning parent must present strong and convincing evidence a change in custody is in the best interest of the child.

Until recently, Virginia courts did not have exclusive jurisdiction to modify child custody arrangements unless both parents and the child resided in the Commonwealth of Virginia. What this meant was that if a non-custodial parent resided outside of the state, another court may have had to be involved to review and modify child custody orders.

New 2016 Virginia child custody laws

Effective July 1 2016, Virginia courts maintain exclusive jurisdiction over child custody determinations so long as the child and the custodial parent both reside in the state. Virginia House Bill 497 amended Virginia Code §§20-146.13 and 20-146.14 to this effect, bringing Virginia closer in line with the other states that have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

Just as other states may not assert jurisdiction, the same applies to Virginia child custody courts. Accordingly, Virginia courts may not modify child custody determinations of other states unless it can be demonstrated:

  • The child and their parents do not reside in the other state;
  • Virginia would be a more convenient venue for the matter; and
  • Virginia has jurisdiction to make an initial determination

The UCCJEA was ratified by all 50 states and the District of Columbia after being offered for enactment in 1997. The goal of the UCCJEA and the Virginia UCCJEA is to create a standard set of rules all states will abide by in deciding jurisdiction in child custody matters. While all states have adopted the Act, many others have made revisions or additions to its language to suit the public policy of the individual state.

Let our Virginia child custody lawyers help you today

If you are a Virginia resident with custody of your child or an in-state/out-of-state parent seeking a modification to your child’s custody determination, you will need an experienced Virginia child custody lawyer to aid you in your petition. While Virginia has moved to simplify its child custody laws, there are still many complex issues that need to be addressed.

For a consultation about your child custody hearing, contact our office. The experienced and dedicated Virginia child custody lawyers of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC are based in Leesburg and serve clients throughout Northern Virginia including Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William, and Arlington Counties.



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Governor Northam’s Executive Order 53 provides that businesses that offer professional rather than retail services may remain open. Our firm is continuing to operate to ensure you and your family have advocates available for whatever legal issue you face. For clients who prefer, we can arrange meeting by Zoom or other video-conferencing. We are also implementing internal procedures to provide a safe environment in the office. Please contact us at 703-777-1795 or schedule an appointment today!