Many customers have come to us lately with modifications being sought in his or her family law case.
Persons seek to modify the Final Judgment for a variety of reasons.
New jobs are offered in different cities or states. People remarry and need to move away. Someone who is paying child support may lose his or her job. Or an incident occurs which leads one parent to change custody, or what is now called Parenting Time.
In all of these, a change has to be requested in the original case, and this is called a modification.
The standard for changes to a final judgment is pretty much the same. There has to be proof that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances, and that the change is new. That is, it was not anticipated at the time of the final judgment. Sounds like an easy standard, but it’s not. In fact, many modifications in family law cases fail at trial. But I suspect that the reason many fail is lack of preparation.
Like anything else, preparation is the key to success.
From the first consultation down to trial (or mediation), it’s important to assess whether your case will be successful. In any modification of a family law case, the same applies. Certain questions must be asked:
- Is there a true change in circumstances?
- Was it something we could have anticipated?
- Is this change in the children’s best interests?
These questions certainly must be asked when you seek to modify a parenting plan.
There are other questions which should be considered. For example, would it be helpful to have a Guardian Ad Litem? Is there any possibility of solving this in mediation? How much will it all cost, and how long would the process take?
Having answers to these questions up front will help guide the process.
If you are defending against a modification, there is a set of similar questions which are just as important. These include:
- Do the other parent’s allegations meet the standard for a change?
- Is it better to take the case to trial, or is it better to try and settle it?
All of this will heavily depend on the facts, and the modification being sought. Life is full of change, and the law recognizes this. Come see us if you ever run into such a change.