No matter how well thought out or how thoroughly documented, no dissolution order can foresee all the details of or predict changes to individuals’ lives. Parenting plans are especially prone to needing refinements or adaptations over time. Child support and alimony agreements may also need adjustments as your or your ex-spouse’s financial circumstances change.
Even if you and your ex-spouse agree on making changes to your order, they are not official or legal until the court agrees. If you are both in agreement, a modification can be a very simple and painless process, requiring little more than petitioning the court. If, however, you can’t agree on the changes, a modification can end up being much more complicated, and could mean returning to court.
Commonly requested modifications include but are not limited to changes in:
- Alimony or child support payments due to changes in income or loss of a job (such as disability)
- Custody arrangements, such as the amount of time one of the parents spends with the child
- Custody modification due to relocation of one of the parents
In any of these cases, modifying an order of the court can be done in the right situation if the right process has been followed. Arguing that things have changed and require a modification usually is more difficult than recognizing the need. Consulting an attorney can be critical to a successful request for court ordered modifications.
Maintenance or Child Support Changes
Circumstances change, sometimes leaving people unable to pay support or needing to modify their support payments, either temporarily or for longer periods of time. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to stop paying before petitioning the court for a modification to your divorce judgment. Withholding payments can lead to garnished wages – or even arrest. Without an official, court-ordered modification, you are technically in contempt of court.
Similarly, asking for payment increases requires a court-approved modification, and you must be able to demonstrate and document the need for the increase.
In each of these situations, getting an agreement from your ex-spouse and consulting with your attorney before any changes are made are prudent steps for staying out of trouble with the law.
Custody Changes: Time Spent with The Child
There are many reasons one parent might request more time with his or her child – or request that the ex-spouse spends less time with the child. However, changing the amount of time either parent is entitled to can be one of the most difficult things to modify after your divorce.
As during divorce proceedings, the court will apply the “best interest of the child” standard. Nonetheless, making these types of judgments post-divorce can be very time intensive and require a lot of information and investigation. The person requesting the change must demonstrate a continued and substantial change in circumstances to justify the court making changes.