How do I change a Judgment or a Separation Agreement?
A Separation Agreement or a Judgment of the Court can only be changed by filing a Complaint for Modification.
When can I change a Judgment or Agreement?
In order to change a Judgment or Agreement you have to show that there has been a substantial change in circumstance that would warrant a modification. This is a complex way of saying that something important has to have changed since the Agreement or Judgment took place that justifies changing the prior Judgment.
What types of things can be modified?
Typical issues for modifications include the amount of child support or alimony, payment of health insurance, a visitation or parenting schedule, custody of children, payment for educational costs, and moving a child out of state. Nearly any issue regarding a child is open to being modified if there has been a sufficient change in circumstances.
Are there any issues that can’t be modified?
Except in extremely rare circumstances, the division of property in a divorce cannot be changed. Also, any issues that are listed in a separation agreement that “survive” the Separation Agreement generally cannot be modified. All Separation Agreements specifically list which provisions “merge” and which “survive.”
What are some common reasons to ask for a modification?
An extremely common reason to ask for a Modification is a job change or job loss. If a child support order was created based upon the income from one job, and you lose that job or change jobs, very frequently a change in the Child Support Order is appropriate.
Another frequent reason to ask for a modification is a change in circumstance that requires a change to a parenting schedule or custody. For example, if spending too much (or too little) time with the child’s other parent is causing harm to the child, a Complaint for Modification is often required.
Can’t my ex and I just verbally agree to a change in child support?
No. A Child Support Order stays in effect until the court changes it. Even if you make an agreement to change the child support, the change doesn’t go into effect until a court approves it.
How do I know if the changes in my circumstances are enough to get a Modification?
This is typically the most complex part of a Modification case. In some situations, a substantial change is very clear (for example a job loss). However, in most custody modification cases, the change in circumstance is hard to demonstrate. Talking with an experienced family law lawyer is often the best way to determine if your change is sufficient for the court to order a Modification.
Can I handle my modification case on my own?
Absolutely. Many people go through a variety of Modification cases without the advice of an attorney. However, keep in mind that the outcome of the case will be a Judgment of the Court that cannot be changed until a new change in circumstances occurs.
What if I can’t afford the several-thousand-dollar retainer many attorneys ask for?
That’s where I can help. I offer a wide range of advice and representation on modification cases. These can include helping by just reviewing some paperwork, advising on your rights before a mediation, or providing a “second opinion” before a major decision needs to be made. If you feel uncomfortable going to court, I can represent you for a single hearing. I offer these services on an affordable, flat-fee basis.
Many clients prefer to have an attorney throughout the entire case, but simply cannot afford to make a large up-front retainer payment. In these situations, I am happy to break the case down into several individual events and charge only for that service. This allows my clients to spread the cost of the modification out over the length of the case. It also means that you don’t have to be afraid to pick up the phone or send me an e-mail, because you won’t be getting a bill for that service.