Modifications to Orders – Not All Family Law Decisions Are Set in Stone
When a divorce becomes final, a court issues rulings regarding spousal or child support, and child custody and visitation. These rulings are based on the circumstances of each spouse at the time of the divorce. However, those circumstances often change, sometimes drastically.
One parent may make a dramatic career change; lifestyles evolve or regress; and health can improve or deteriorate because of a variety of causes. These are all good reasons to seek modifications, whether you think you are paying too much, or receive too little child support.
The following changes may justify seeking a modification to previous agreements:
- Care Requirements: If a child requires substantially more (or less) care, than at the time of divorce, you may want to have your support order modified. This usually happens when children go to school and no longer need day care; or if ongoing medical treatment or prescriptions are no longer needed, or are suddenly required.
- Parent’s Relocation: One parent moving out of state could affect the visitation vs. custody balance previously ordered fair by a family law court.
- Parent’s Lifestyle: If one of the parents loses a job; engages in chronic, risky behavior (i.e. becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol); remarries – which can either add more fiscal obligations or merely increase household income.
- Parent’s Health: Mental or physical health can change in a moment, affecting the welfare of the child. A traumatic accident or the development of a chronic condition can impose both physical and emotional burdens.
- Family Preferences: An older child’s preferences are sometimes taken into consideration. Other times, both parents may agree that a child living with one parent rather than the other is better for the child.
Whether you seek an increase in child support, or are hoping to decrease your payments, proceed with caution. Often, more than one factor applied to a child support calculation changes over time. While you are counting on your or your ex’s change in career to work in your favor for example, be warned that the Court may also consider a changed visitation schedule, your child’s increased age, etc. to weigh against you.
A family law court will have final say, but a good family law attorney can help you evaluate the risks beforehand.