How Can an Attorney Help With Family Court Order Modification?
Life can pose unpredictable challenges for anyone. When changes in your lifestyle occur due to forces beyond your control, some of these changes can have a material impact on any standing family court orders that you must observe. For example, if you have a family court order requiring you to pay child support and you lose your job due to company-wide layoffs, you may not be able to meet your child support obligation by no fault of your own. When these things happen, and you are concerned about your ability to abide by a standing family court order, it’s vital to understand how the modification process can help your situation.
Family law is unique in that it is possible to alter your family court order without a complex, time-consuming appeal process. Instead, modification allows any party beholden to a family court order to request reasonable changes to their family court order through a simplified process. While this may seem straightforward at first, consulting an experienced California family law attorney before filing your petition for modification is a wise choice. Your attorney can help you determine whether you have grounds for a modification, guide you through the process, and may even have suggestions for other alterations you could reasonably request that could make it easier for you to manage your court-ordered obligations in the future.
Understanding the Modification Process
The process of filing a petition for modification is simple in theory and often challenging in practice. First, something must have occurred that materially influences the terms of your family court order. Some of the most commonly cited reasons for requesting family court order modifications include:
- Unexpected job loss or dramatic changes to one’s financial situation.
- The development of a severe medical condition or disability.
- Suffering a catastrophic injury.
- Discovery of information that should have been considered during the drafting of the family court order in question.
- Discovery that the other party included in a family court order has violated the terms of the order in some way that results in a material change of circumstances.
If you believe a recent event qualifies as grounds for requesting a modification of your family court order, it’s best to consult an attorney as soon as possible. Your legal counsel can review the details of your situation and help you determine the best approach to the modification process.
When your attorney notifies you that your situation qualifies for modification of your family court order, the next step is submitting your petition for modification to the family court. Your attorney can help you draft this petition, which must include an accurate description of your recent life events that spurred your modification request, an explanation of your desired change or changes, and another explanation that covers why these changes are reasonable and necessary.
Once the court receives your petition, a hearing date is set, and you and the other party or parties involved in your family court order will have the opportunity to speak on the proposed modification. Depending on the type and scope of the modification you’re requesting, the other party can agree without contest. On the other hand, it’s also possible for the other party to fiercely oppose your proposed modification and offer contradictory evidence and testimony of their own. Ultimately, the more significant the requested change, the more likely the proposed modification is to generate a heated modification hearing.
Modification and Contempt of Court
Whenever any party accountable to a family court order knowingly violates their obligations included in the order, they potentially face severe penalties. For example, if you believe your child’s other parent has violated your custody order, failed to pay child support as required, or if another party involved in your family court order has in any way breached the terms of the order, you may have the right to file contempt proceedings against them.
The court will evaluate the charge, and if the judge determines the other party has indeed willfully violated your family court order, hold the other party in contempt. The penalties for contempt of court can be severe depending on the scope of the offense. For example, in some cases, judges will compel parties held in contempt to immediately repay owed debts, and in other cases, they issue more severe penalties, including seizure of assets and even incarceration.
Contempt and modification proceedings often unfold in tandem. For example, suppose a party beholden to a family court order has knowingly violated the order. In that case, the other party has the right to request reasonable changes to the family court order that reflect the other party’s damaging behavior. For example, suppose the at-fault party has repeatedly and knowingly violated the terms of a joint custody agreement. In that case, the other party may file contempt proceedings against them and file a petition for modification of their custody agreement seeking full custody of their children.
Suppose you believe you have grounds to file contempt proceedings in regard to your family court order. In that case, it is essential to consult an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. Your legal counsel can help you determine whether your contempt filing is likely to succeed and guide you through these challenging proceedings.
Approval of Modification and Enforcement
No matter what type of modification you request in the California family court system, a judge must review and approve the desired change before it takes legal effect. Typically, a new family court order or an addendum to the existing order is drafted with immediate effect once a modification is approved. Once the judge signs off on a modification, it becomes a legally enforceable aspect of the family court agreement in question.
Navigating modification proceedings of any kind is much easier with the help of an experienced California family law attorney on your side. Whether you need help drafting your petition, preparing for your modification hearing, or determining the best approach to a clear violation of your family court order, the attorneys at Bickford, Blado & Botros can help. Our team has years of experience guiding our clients through complex family law matters and can apply this experience to your case. If you need guidance for modifying your family court order, contact us today to learn more about the modification process and how our firm can assist you.
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