What happens if you have a custody, visitation or child support order entered in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court that you are unhappy with? Are you stuck with it, or is there something you can do?
Thankfully, if you get an order entered in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, that does not necessarily mean it is permanent and can never be changed. There are two different routes you could take – filing a motion to amend or filing an appeal.
Motion to Amend
If you are unhappy with your prior order, you can file a motion to amend. This would mean that you would keep your current order and try to change it at a later date when you have a material change in circumstance. What constitutes a material change in circumstance? Some common examples include when one party moves away (or another party moves closer), there was a change in income to either party, or one party is consistently not following the order. If you think you may have a possible change in circumstance, you should speak with a family law attorney who can review evaluate your case.
Waiting until there is a change in circumstance to file can take time (for instance, a Judge will not believe there is a change in circumstance right after an order is entered) and there may be no guarantee that you will have a change in circumstance. Thankfully, you still have the option to file an appeal.
Another option you have is to file an appeal to the Circuit Court. In Virginia, either party has an absolute right to file an appeal from an order of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to the next highest court, which is the Circuit Court. If you wish to file an appeal, you must do so within ten calendar days from entry of the order. If you do not file within ten days, then you lose your right to appeal. There are no exceptions.
What happens when you file an appeal? Basically, you get a “do over.” You will have a new Judge who will hear your case “de novo,” which means that they will hear everything for the first time. The Judge will not review what happened in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, including the order that was entered. The process is relatively the same as it was in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
It is important to note that even if you have filed an appeal, you are still bound to the order entered in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court and need to continue to follow it. This includes orders for custody, visitation, and child support. The prior order will remain in full force and effect until you get a new order entered from the Circuit Court Judge. If you do not follow the order, you could face some serious consequences, including jail time.
If you wish to file an appeal of a child support order and you are the one who is required to pay child support, it is important to note that you may be required to file an appeal bond. If you have any unpaid child support payments, called “arrears,” you will likely need to file those in order to file an appeal of the child support order. You will still need to note your appeal within ten days, and you will need to pay the appeal bond within thirty days from entry of the order or from noting your appeal. Some courts may require you to pay an appeal bond even if you do not have arrears, though it cannot be more than three months of your current support obligation. You should always ask the court to set an appeal bond on any support case. Without an appeal bond, the Circuit Court will not be able to hear your case and you will be stuck with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Order. Note, the appeal bond does not apply to any custody or visitation orders.
Regardless of whether you want to file an appeal or want to wait until you have a change in circumstance, if you are unhappy with a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court order, speak with an attorney as soon as possible so they can advise you on your best options and next steps. At Smith | Strong, PLC, our attorneys specialize in custody, visitation, and child support matters and are always willing to speak with you.