When you get divorced, you and your spouse will need to comply with the court order that addresses many different issues, such as property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support. Often, spouses work hard through negotiation and mediation to reach a settlement agreement that they believe will work best for them post-divorce. Even if the agreement works for a period of time, situations can always change and complying with certain aspects of the order may not be as feasible as it once was.
The good news is that Missouri law allows you to modify court orders under certain circumstances. If you think you need to modify a court order, you should discuss the matter with an experienced St Louis divorce lawyer.
Child Custody and Parenting Plans
A custody order will dictate how you divide physical and legal custody of your child, and your parenting plan should have a detailed outline of how you will divide your parenting rights and responsibilities. Life is full of unexpected changes, however, and a schedule or arrangement that worked for a while may not be beneficial for you or your child anymore.
Often, both parents will agree on the need to modify a custody order. You can sit down and negotiate a new arrangement, and the court will grant the modification as long as it is in the best interests of the child. Problems arise when one parent wants to keep the initial arrangement and refuses to agree to a modification. Mediation can help many parents reach a compromise, but if mediation does not work, you can petition the court to modify the order for you.
Family courts know that a change in a custody arrangement can affect a child’s routine and life. For this reason, the court will not automatically modify a custody order anytime a parent requests it. Instead, the court will require the parent requesting the modification to prove that they experienced a substantial change in circumstances that warrants the changes. Such circumstances may include:
- One parent moves
- Changes in work schedules
- Changes in the child’s schedule
- The preferences of the child changed (if the child is old enough)
- The other parent has abandoned the child
- The other parent poses a physical or emotional threat to the child
- The needs of the child changed
If the parent proves the modification is justified, the court will modify the order if it deems the changes in the best interest of the child.
Modifying Support Orders
Many of us know that finances are constantly changing, either for the better or worse. The court order for child support or spousal maintenance was based on your finances at the time of the divorce, and much can change before the support order terminates. You can request a modification of support in two ways:
- For support to be reduced if you are the payor
- For support to be increased if you are the recipient
Often, former spouses will not agree to a change in support, as a modification can result in financial losses or liability. In order for the court to grant a modification, you must demonstrate that substantial financial changes occurred. Some changes that may lead to a support modification include:
- The loss of a job or the failure of a business
- Increases in your cost of living
- Retirement from your job
- Major health issues with high treatment costs
- Your ex-spouse remarried
- Your ex-spouse had a windfall or increase in income
If you are seeking to reduce payments, you also have to show that your changed financial circumstances were involuntary. You cannot willingly stop working or lower your income to try to justify lower support payments. On the other hand, if your spouse is seeking to reduce the support you receive, you want to make sure that they sufficiently prove they experienced an involuntary change in their finances.
Discuss a Possible Modification with a St. Louis Divorce Lawyer
Before you rush into court to request a modification or get ready to put up a fight against a modification request, you should consult with a skilled divorce attorney who handles post-divorce modifications. Often, the right lawyer can help you and your ex-spouse cooperate and reach an agreement regarding the modification. This can save you significant time and resources by eliminating the need for a court hearing.
The J. Rench Law Firm works to help clients resolve modification issues through negotiation or mediation, and can also represent you in court if needed. Call 314-725-4000 or contact us online to discuss your options and how a St. Louis divorce attorney can help.