Modification of Final Judgment of Divorce
The Final Judgment in your divorces contains provisions regarding timesharing, parental responsibility, child support or alimony based upon the facts in front of the Court at the time it was entered. However, our lives change over time. What was appropriate then may not be appropriate now. You may be able to modify the provisions of your divorce decree if there has been a substantial change of circumstances.
Child Custody / Timesharing / Parental Responsibility
Co-parenting can be difficult. Plans that were put in place in the divorce may no longer be appropriate several years later. As the children grow, they will have different needs, and the parents’ ability to care for the children and meet their needs may change as well. One parent may wish to relocate to for a new job or to be closer to extended family. The parents’ work schedules may change and a change in the timesharing schedule may be necessary to accommodate the changes.
Child support is calculated using the parties’ incomes at the time the Final Judgment is entered. It is a mathematical formula and, when the numbers change, the parties can ask the Court for a modification.
For example, when paying parents lose their jobs or have to take a lower-paying job, it may be grounds for that parent to petition the Court to modify child support. On the other hand, if a paying parent gets a higher paying job, the receiving parent may be able to modify child support upward. Other factors beyond the parents’ income that may change are the cost of childcare and the cost of the child’s health insurance.
Alimony / Spousal Support
When awarding spousal support, the Court analyzes the receiving spouse’s need for alimony and the paying spouse’s ability to pay. If there is a significant change in need or ability to pay after the divorce, a modification may be warranted.
Typical examples of life changes supporting a modification of alimony are changes in income of the payor or payee spouse, retirement of the payor spouse, and a change in the health of one of the parties. If the receiving spouse becomes involved in a supportive relationship, that may be grounds for an alimony modification.
Not every change is substantial enough to support a change to the Final Judgment. The standard is that the change must be significant, material, permanent, involuntary and unanticipated. It can be extremely difficult to meet this burden. Before filing for a modification with the Court, you should meet with an experienced family law attorney to analyze the facts in your case.