What Are Post-Judgment Modifications?
Post-judgment or post-order modifications are an important and often utilized method to change an order or divorce judgment to more favorable terms for one party. Our firm has significant experience in handling cases after a judgment is entered and one party wishes to reconfigure the terms. Often, significant planning is involved to ensure success. Preparing a “discovery plan” to gather information, developing a strategy to submit pleadings that have a resounding effect with the court, and negotiating effectively are important aspects of succeeding in post-judgment request for modifications.
What Can They Apply to?
Post-judgment or post-order modification motions apply to a wide variety of family law issues, including:
- Modification of permanent alimony or spousal support
- Modification of child support in a paternity judgment
- Modification of child support in a divorce judgment
- Modifying a temporary order for spousal or child support
- Modifying a child custody and timesharing order within a divorce judgment or paternity judgment, or in a temporary order including cases involving domestic violence
A party wishing to modify an order must completely understand what can and cannot be modified before he or she files a petition for modification. The procedures to modify a judgment are very precise and, if done incorrectly, the court will deny the request. Also, parties wishing to modify an order must understand that the presumption for the court will be to deny modification. Courts are reluctant to change previous court orders without compelling new evidence of the need to do so.
Changed Circumstances Requirement
An essential component to modifying any order or judgment is showing there has been a “substantial changed circumstance” sufficient to warrant modifying a set order or judgment. There are varying degrees of the change required and a host of variables that will weigh into whether a court will ultimately modify a judgment. While there is no formal definition of what constitutes a substantial change of circumstances, some courts may consider the following a change of circumstances that may qualify for a court ordered modification:
- Relocation (especially to another state)
- Loss of job or increase or decrease in earnings
- Unsuitable environment for children
- Unforeseen expenses, including medical expenses
- Drug or alcohol use or abuse
- Retirement (but not voluntary early retirement)
To change custody or to modify a timesharing schedule, the moving party must show significantly changed circumstances and that a change in custody or timesharing is in the best interests of the child. Overall, a moving party’s alleged changed circumstances completely depends on the facts of the case and every case always presents unique facts. To reduce alimony or child support, the moving party must show that the substantial change in circumstances included an involuntary, unanticipated and long-term loss of income that makes it near impossible for the paying former spouse or parent to pay the amounts originally ordered. If the change is short-term or insignificant, a reduction in alimony or child support will not be permitted but, if good cause is shown that the reduction is significant and long-term, a reduction will be permitted.
Relocation with Children
An increasing common area of post-divorce litigation is relocation with minor children. Sometimes, a parent wishes to move away with the children, which can drastically reduce the amount of timesharing of the other parent. Some of the reasons for relocation are:
- Remarriage of one parent to someone living elsewhere
- New jobs, job transfers or other employment opportunities
- Need to live closer to friends and family who can assist in child care and who can provide financial support
- Better educational opportunities for the child
- Health needs of the child or parent
In Florida, a parent typically is permitted to move with the children if the move is less than 50 miles away (“as the crow flies”). Moves of a greater distance require either consent of the other parent or a court order.
At Feldman & Schneiderman, P.L., our attorneys are experienced in both litigating relocation cases for parents wishing to relocate and litigating for parents who oppose relocation. However, our goal is to protect the best interests of the children – a goal best obtained by negotiation and compromise. We will litigate when necessary but we encourage both parents to come up with a workable plan that respects the rights of both parents and the rights of the children to have a strong relationship with each parent and plenty of timesharing with each parent.