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Sometimes after a decree of divorce or legal separation has been entered by the court, the parties may want to change some aspect of the judgment. This is called a Modification. Usually, a property settlement cannot be modified after the court enters the final judgment. Common modifiable things are child custody and parental visitation, child support, and spousal support.
Grounds For Modification of Support or Parenting Time
To modify child custody, child support, or spousal support, the moving party must show that there has been a substantial, material, and permanent change in circumstances since the entry of the last judgment. Some common changes are 1) For Child Custody: gross moral misconduct of the custodial parent, custodial parent’s neglect or endangerment of the child, de facto custody by the non-custodial parent, improvement in the situation of the non-custodial parent, move by the custodial parent, failure of joint custody and the wishes of the child. 2) For Child Support: physical custody of the child has changed, the child’s needs have changed, or the income of one or both parents has changed. 3) For Spousal Support: change in income of one or both parties, the obligee’s increased need, or the obligee’s lack of reasonable efforts to become self-supporting.
When a court is factoring in a child’s best interest, many factors will be at play. Your child’s age will be a significant decision. As your child(ren) gets older, their needs will need to be accommodated in different ways and will need to be updated. As a parent, you may find yourself needing to move. As the moving party, you must show that the modification would be in the child’s best interests. Your child(ren)’s safety will also be considered. If your child’s safety or life is at risk while residing with one parent, the court may modify their living situation. It is also common for a plan to be modified because one or both parents are not following the original plan.
Modifications can also change things like child support. Depending on how child support is calculated (ex: based on parent time), the court will adjust the payment when issued with the new orders from a modification. Child support can be modified by a significant change in finances, whether a new job or a lost job or if a child’s medical expenses increase to a certain amount. A court modification can automatically take out child support by deducting it from the parent’s check.
Commonly courts will allow parents to decide together on modifications without changing the original plan. More minor matters like changing a pickup time by a couple of hours are something the parents can agree on without bringing it to court. Many parents will draft their plans and modifications independently with a mediator. This method, however, will only work if the parents are willing to work together to form an agreement civilly. Generally, when parents cannot work together, they need another party to reach a decision. If you can work together to reach an agreement, make sure it is in writing. You want to ensure the plan is clean and clear. Check with one of our attorneys to ensure your modifications are correct and protected.