You made it! You ground through your divorce or family law issue (hopefully, you’re last), and the judge signed off on the papers. You’re done…or so you thought. Then, you find out that you might need a post-judgment modification of orders. Here are the quick notes and applicable standards you should know that may make that final judgment or order…..not so final.
Common Post-judgment Modifications
The most common motions for modification post-judgment are:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal Support
Post-judgment orders occur after a temporary or permanent order is entered regarding the issue. A different article will explore whether an order is temporary or permanent. Just be aware of that distinction from now on.
Child Support Modifications
Regarding child custody and visitation motions, it is important whether the agreement explicitly states that it is a final order. If it is not, then the general best interest test is applicable. The general best interest of the child test is a test applied. The court determines what would be in the child’s best interest concerning the child’s health, safety, and welfare. This is a general test used by the court and a low standard to prove for modification. The best interest test helps make your case easier to prove for modification.
If both people agreed to the terms that the child custody and visitation should be treated as a final order, than it will be treated as such, which requires a different, higher standard of evaluation than the best interest test. The material change of circumstances test is in a case of modification of child custody and visitation. This test requires that a substantial change of circumstances occurred after the entry of the order that necessitates that the change requires the court to modify the order. This means if nothing major has changed since the last time you went to court, then the judge is likely to keep the status quo and not change anything previously established.
A court will not modify a child support order unless there has been a material change of circumstances. If nothing has changed regarding either person’s income/expenses, you are unlikely to prevail on any motion for modification of child support.
Spousal Support Modifications
Regarding spousal support, the same material change of circumstances test applies to any proposed changes after judgment. You start to notice a pattern of these tests used by the courts to determine these issues. Everyone is held to the agreement if both people originally agreed that spousal support is not subject to modification or termination. That means, if you agree that the spousal support is non-modifiable, you waive your right to try and change that support later. This could be a good choice if your income will be increasing down the line. Then you do not have to worry about the other person bringing a motion to try and collect more. It could be terrible if you have no marketable skills and think you might need the additional income to get back on your feet.
Post-judgment modifications can quickly become a complex issue. If you think modification applies to your case, please call us at (833) 931-1615 or click here to schedule an initial consultation!