The only constant in life is change. Hence the law allows modifications. People lose and gain jobs. Kids grow older and gain additional expenses. People remarry and form blended families.
There are simple modifications, like trying a new school for your kids.
Or it may be a complex change, like seeking to relocate across the country with the kids. Either way, family law cases have carved out a small exception which allows Final Judgments to be changed. And that small exception has led to many people seeking to modify their divorce or paternity orders.
The basic rule in all modifications is showing that there has been what’s called a material and substantial change in circumstances. This is a tough standard to meet. And many cases fail to meet this test. The change must be permanent. And it must be something that was not anticipated. In child support cases, a person seeking to reduce his or her support obligation must show an involuntary loss of their job. A person seeking to increase the child support must show that the other person should be paying $50.00 or fifteen percent more per month, whichever is greater.
Like child support, custody orders can also be changed.
But the standard to change a Final Judgment is high. Many such cases occur when a parent has denied the other parent his or her parenting time. Another major reason for changes occurs when the other parent gets involved in an abusive relationship which affects the children.
In the 19 years in which I have handled family law cases, I have seen countless modification cases, from changing schools to changing the entire parenting arrangement. And another area where modifications occur is when people seek to modify an alimony award. People often reside with someone else, but do not remarry. This has led to many cases where an alimony award is reduced or ended because the person receiving alimony is now in what’s called a “supportive relationship.”
But take note — courts cannot modify the property terms of a Final Judgment. You can challenge the division of assets in higher courts immediately after a Final Judgment is entered, but you cannot change it down the road.
For more information, or if you have a particular case which involves making a modification, please call our office or email us. We will be happy to assist you.