It is not uncommon for a person to request a change to their divorce decree, regarding issues involving the children such as child custody and support are concerned. While the decree may be suitable at the time it is issued by the court, no one can predict the future and people often experience both substantial and ongoing changes of circumstances. Here are four situations in which you may need to explore your options to a Decree of Divorce or Paternity.
Dramatic Change in Income
In today’s economic climate, you can be enjoying a steady and predictable income one day and be unemployed tomorrow. Finding another job with comparable pay can take time, and until that happens, you may not be able to afford to pay the alimony or child support amounts specified in the divorce decree.
If you have an amicable relationship with your ex, he or she may volunteer to waive child support or at least reduce the amounts until you get another job. Don’t do it. Unless the original decree is modified, you are under court order to pay the amount specified in the Decree. Even if your ex doesn’t mind an informal change, the authorities certainly will. A “certified” agreement is worthless unless signed by a judge, and a Motion to Modify is required to change your financial obligations.
If you are a noncustodial parent who receives a job offer in another city, a decision to move will impact the current visitation schedule. While many divorced spouses deal with this type of situation by informal agreement to spare the time and expense of getting a new order, such an arrangement will only work as long as you and your ex continue to honor the new arrangement. If problems arise, a judge will not be able to enforce the changes unless they are part of a new court order. You should seek a court order detailing any change in visitation.
Custodial Parent Becomes Unstable
When family court judges determine custody arrangements, they take into account each parent’s ability to provide the children with a stable living environment. If a parent becomes dependent on drugs, alcohol, or any other addiction, a Motion to Modify is appropriate. Depending on the urgency of the situation you might need an Emergency Order to protect the safety of the child(ren).
You might consider filing a Motion to Modify your original divorce decree if your former spouse or child’s parent creates a chaotic living environment for the children. Examples include:
- Evidence of emotional instability
- Drug and / or alcohol abuse
- Frequent moving from one residence to another
- Frequent entering into new relationships
- Refusal to make the children available for visitation with their other parent
Divorce and paternity decrees are legally binding, but as you can see, they are not set in stone. You can technically request a modification at any time, provided that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the previous order was entered.
For maximum efficacy, motions to modify should be composed and presented to the court by an experienced family law attorney. For assistance in this regard, please contact us at Bedlam Law today.