Things Have Changed: 5 Tips for Modification of Your Divorce
The last thing most people who get divorced want to think about is having to change the Agreement or Parenting Plan that they spent a great deal of time and money obtaining in the first place. But life happens. Things change. Sometimes, changes can be easily absorbed. Oftentimes, however, change is resisted by the person who doesn’t want it. Let’s face it: few people want to agree to pay more money for something, or receive less money than before. Once a time-sharing schedule is in place, few people want to have any of that time with their children taken away. But people lose jobs, become disabled and retire. Or, they can have significant increases in their incomes. Perhaps you lost your job here in South Florida, and have no family support here, but now have a job offer in another State, for significantly more money, with a lower cost of living, somewhere else? Sometimes, change is not even a choice.
If you already have a Final Judgment from your divorce (or custody case if you were never married to your child’s other parent), and something significant has changed, you may need to formally ask the Court to modify your alimony, your child support, or your parenting plan. The division of assets and debts is not modifiable once you have a Final Judgment, but almost everything else is modifiable, if you can prove a substantial, unanticipated, permanent, involuntary change of circumstances. So, what are some of the things you should do if you think there has been such a change? How do you go about getting the change you want?
Before you print out do-it-yourself forms, consult with an attorney with your prior agreement(s) and parenting plan in hand. Only by seeing what is already there and listening to your reasons can a lawyer get the right information to give you the right advice. Not every change is substantial. Not every reason will be legally sufficient.
If you only have a limited amount of time left to pay alimony or child support, the cost of modifying it may exceed the additional money you might recover. Do the math.
Modification of the Parenting Plan because of a relocation (moving more than 50 miles from where you lived at the time the Final Judgment was entered) is a process that has strict rules, and failure to comply with them can result in the request to relocate being denied. This includes people wanting to relocate without taking the child(ren) with them.
Parenting Plans aren’t modified easily. Just because it’s no longer convenient, or a child is giving you a hard time about the time-sharing schedule is not a good enough reason to ask for the schedule to be modified. The reasonable preference of the child is only one of more than 20 factors that the Court must consider in modifying a parenting plan.
If you are thinking that a modification may be in your future, get ready early. If a parent stops regularly exercising their time-sharing, keep notes on a calendar. If your income changed, start gathering your financial records so that you can give your attorney all the information when the time comes. Get early legal advice to help you with that planning.