Getting divorced and/or determining a child custody arrangement can be complicated. Among other things, you are required to divide assets, determine financial support requirements, and settle on a custody arrangement for your children. The decisions that are made in your divorce and/or child custody matter are final. Once these family law matters are settled, you will be legally bound by the terms of these agreements. What happens if your circumstances change and you need to change your divorce and/or child custody agreement? With the help of the family law attorneys at Caulder & Valentine, you can secure post-modification judgments.
What is a Post-Judgment Modification Action?
In most cases, the terms of a divorce and/or child custody agreement are set in stone. You are legally required to adhere to the terms and conditions of your agreement and can face serious consequences if you willfully violate them. However, life changes frequently for many people. These life changes can make it difficult to carry out the terms of your family law agreement. Since divorce and/or child custody orders are legally binding, you cannot change the terms on your own. This is true even if you had an amicable split and mutually agreed to the initial terms of your agreement.
In North Carolina, you can ask a family law court to modify the terms of your divorce and/or child custody agreement. If a court is persuaded by your request they may modify the terms of your arrangement. You must follow any changes that are made in a post-judgment modification action.
When Can You Request a Post-Judgment Modification Action?
In most cases, a judge will only agree to modify an order if there has been a “substantial and material change in circumstances.” There is no set definition of what a substantial and material change is. This determination is left up to the discretion of the judge handling the matter. However, courts have found the following changes to be sufficient to satisfy the substantial and material requirement:
- Loss of a job and/or income;
- Changes in income;
- Cohabitating with a new spouse;
- Increased cost of living; and
- Dramatic lifestyle changes.
Whether or not a change in your life is substantial and material, and therefore a valid reason to change a family law order, it will often depend on the type of agreement you're trying to change.
Who Can File a Post-Judgment Modification Action?
Either spouse or parent has the right to ask to have family law orders modified. If circumstances in your own life have changed, you can ask the court to modify the agreement accordingly. For example, Parent A is required to pay alimony and child support to Parent B. Parent A loses his job unexpectedly and is no longer able to meet his support requirements. Parent A can ask the court to modify his support requirements. The court will take the loss of his job into account and make a decision, accordingly.
You can also request a post-judgment modification to an order if you learn that another person's circumstances have changed. Imagine that if instead of losing his job Parent A gets a promotion and a raise. When Parent B learns that Parent A's income has changed, she could ask the court to increase the alimony and child support payments she receives.
Courts Will Always Consider the Best Interests of the Child
When courts handle modification requests for divorce orders, they generally only consider the interests of two adults. When a parent requests a modification to a child support and/or child custody agreement, however, the wellbeing of a child comes into question. In addition to considering whether or not a parent has been affected by a substantial and material change in circumstances, the court will also consider how this change affects the best interests of the child.
A judge will only modify a child custody order if the circumstances adversely affect the child. Courts may be hesitant to change a child custody and/or support order if that change would hurt the stability, health, wellbeing, or education of that child.
Requesting a Post-Judgment Modification Action
Have you recently encountered an unexpected change in circumstances in your life? Maybe you have lost your job or have been relocated to an office across the country. Maybe you have incurred significant medical debt while battling a serious illness or disability. An unexpected change in circumstances may significantly affect your ability to follow through with obligations required by divorce and/or child custody orders. Fortunately, you have the right to ask a judge to modify your order to reflect your change in circumstances.
At Caulder & Valentine, our North Carolina family law attorneys know that life can change in the blink of an eye. If you are divorced and/or share custody of your children, we know that these changes can affect your ability to follow through on your obligations. We can help you modify the terms of your divorce and/or child custody orders by requesting a post-judgment modification action. We will fight to make sure that the modification accurately reflects your current situation and reduces the stress you are under. Call us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about post-judgment modification actions.