Making a Change in Divorce Judgements Due to a Change of Circumstances
Life can change in an instant, and individuals who are divorced are not immune. In fact, divorced people frequently experience changes in their life circumstances that may necessitate changes in terms of their divorce regarding spousal support, child support, or child custody and visitation. If you are in a similar situation that has made the terms of your divorce untenable, it can be difficult to know where to start. However, it is important to know that you are not alone.
The first step toward changing a divorce judgment is to request a hearing. A hearing allows you to prove in court that you have experienced a significant lifestyle change since the time that your divorce was settled. The courts do not provide a specific outline for what constitutes a change of circumstances, but they will consider various factors that may affect the terms of your divorce.
Changes That Affect Visitation and Child Custody
When your child custody and visitation judgment was determined, it was based on your standard of living, among other factors. If you want to request a change to this court order, you must show the court that there has been a significant change in your circumstances since the judge ruled on your case. It can be difficult to determine exactly what that means, however, so it is always best to have an experienced family law attorney on your side. Legal professionals can help you assess your case before you petition the courts and ensure you provide proper evidence to make the change.
What Is the Best Interests Standard?
Although you may feel that you have had a significant change in your lifestyle that warrants the modification of your visitation or child custody orders, your opinion is not the final determining factor. Instead, the courts will be tasked with making a decision whether a change is in the child’s best interests. To make this determination, they will take the following factors into consideration:
- Where the child attends school
- The emotional relationship the child shares with the other parent and with you
- The child’s community involvement
- The adequacy and duration of the child’s living arrangements
- The ability you and the other parent have to care for the child
- Possible history of substance abuse or domestic violence by you or the other parent
- The amount of contact you and the other parent have with the child and the nature of that contact
- The welfare, safety, and health of the child
- The child’s age
It is not easy to convince the courts that a lifestyle change is a valid reason to modify the custodial agreement established in the divorce. For this to happen, it is vital to prove that changing the arrangements is in the best interest of the child.
How Do You Know If You Have a “Substantial” Change in Circumstances?
Before you attempt to alter your custodial judgment, you must develop an understanding of the factors the courts will consider and determine if they apply to you. In addition to the emotional, mental, and physical well-being of your child, the courts will assess the following:
- Whether the parent who has primary custody has provided sufficiently for the child’s emotional, mental, and physical needs.
- How frequently the custodial parent moves—if the parent with primary custody relocates on a regular basis, the courts may see this as a failure to provide the child with a stable living situation.
- Whether a mental or physical health condition prevents the other parent from properly caring for the child.
- The age of the child—when a child gets older, the courts give them a voice regarding their custodial living arrangements.
- Whether the other parent or someone who lives in their household is abusing the child in any way.
- Whether the other parent has had a significant loss in income or has lost their job.
- Whether the other parent is living with someone new or has a new spouse.
- Whether the other parent has developed an alcohol or drug abuse problem.
- Whether the other parent is providing an unsuitable or unsafe environment or home for the child.
- Whether one of the parents has moved a substantial distance away from the other.
What Factors Affect Child Support Changes?
If you are seeking to modify your child support payments, there are several factors the courts will consider to determine whether your change in circumstances warrants a change in payment. The following examples may influence a change in your payments:
- Either one of the parents has a child with another person.
- The child requires more or less support due to their needs regarding education, health care, or childcare costs.
- There has been a change in the percentage of time that you or the other parent spends with the child.
- One of the parents has been sentenced to time in prison.
- Either of the parents has experienced a loss of employment.
- Income has otherwise changed for one or both parents.
The formula California courts use when determining the amount of child support necessary is complex and can be difficult to understand. It is always best to seek the advice of a child custody attorney when you wish to have your judgment modified.
What Factors Affect Spousal Support?
The courts use a similar formula for spousal support determinations as the one used for child support. If you wish to modify your child support, they will consider the following factors that affect either spouse:
- Living with a new spouse or partner
- Changes in expenses for medical care
- Failure to make an attempt to become self-supporting
- Retirement or disabilities that inhibit the ability to work
- A change in income
Of course, every case is unique, and the courts consider many details when deciding to terminate or modify support. Having a reputable attorney on your side is always the best way to petition for any necessary changes.
Call a Legal Team You Can Trust
If your life circumstances have changed significantly and you wish to have your divorce judgment modified, seek the advice of a skilled family law attorney. Changes regarding custody agreements, child support, or alimony are best achieved with the support of an attorney you can trust to work diligently for you. Visit the Bickford, Blado, & Botros website today to find the help you need.
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