Post Judgment Modifications of Divorce and Paternity: Alimony, Child Custody and Support
By Orlando Post Judgment Modifications Lawyer Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011
When and for What Reasons Can Post Judgment Modifications of Divorce and Paternity Rulings Be Made
In divorce and paternity cases only child support and custody time sharing can be modified. In divorce cases only, alimony can be modified (since there is no alimony in paternity cases). But in all cases, only after the family court's judgment and if there have been "substantial changes in circumstances" since the divorce or paternity case.
Family law differs from other areas of law in several ways. One unfortunate distinction lies in the seemingly never-ending litigation between ex-spouses and parents. Unlike criminal and other civil cases, the same parties often return to court over what appear to be the same conflicts. Hence, one often hears the expression in family law that “a final judgment is never really final.”
However, before you resign yourself to years of litigation with your ex-spouse, keep in mind that appellate decisions of family law cases have placed strict limits on both: (1) the parts of a divorce or paternity judgment that can be modified, and (2) what needs to be proven to obtain a modification.
Mere dissatisfaction with the final judgment never constitutes adequate grounds for its modification. Also, equitable distribution aspects of a divorce judgment (how marital assets and debts are divided) cannot be modified. (Please see the page Property Distribution in Divorce for more information on this subject.)
What Can Be Modified in a Divorce If There Is a Substantial Change In Circumstances
What then can be subject to a post judgment modification in a divorce or paternity judgment or settlement? A former spouse can file a “Supplemental Petition for Modification” of his or her child support, time sharing or alimony obligation. Similarly, a parent operating under a paternity final judgment can also seek to modify his or her child support obligation.
With both alimony and parenting plans for time sharing child custody and support, the critical question the family court asks is this: Has there been a substantial change in circumstances since the entry of the final judgment, such as changes in income a disability or a move by one of the members of the divorced couple?
The court then must determine whether this substantial change in circumstances is permanent, involuntary and unforeseeable. If (1) a party should have expected this change at the time of the final judgment or (2) the party’s own voluntary actions caused the change, or (3) the change is short-term, a modification will not be granted.
Modifications Due to Income Changes
In practical terms, divorced persons usually obtains reductions in alimony or child support obligations when their incomes are dramatically and permanently reduced due to events beyond their control. Conversely, ex-spouses receiving the support can realistically expect to see their support increase when the payers of their support have substantially and permanently increased their income.
Modifications Due to a Move
Parents in either divorce or paternity cases can also petition to modify the custody time-sharing provisions of the final judgments when moving farther or closer to the other parent. Here, the burden of proof is more difficult. The moving party must demonstrate, not only that a post judgment substantial change in circumstances has occurred, but also that their desired new parenting plan is in the child’s best interests.
Modifications of Parenting Plans
While parenting plan or time sharing modifications of the final judgment can occasionally be obtained, parents often underestimate their degree of difficulty. Isolated parenting conflicts rarely justify tweaking the established parenting plan. Family courts expect parents to resolve petty conflicts and avoid filing suit at the first sign of disagreement. For more information see Modifications of Parenting Plans.
When I offer these candid opinions about the difficulty of changing parenting plans to my prospective clients, they sometimes have difficulty accepting them. However, once I explain the aforementioned challenges of modifying final judgments, they usually appreciate the honesty of my opinion about the prospects of achieving the modification. Any lawyer can tell you that you have a great case just to acquire you as a client. I prefer to give you the truth.
How to Get Help
If you want an honest appraisal from an experienced Orlando post judgment modifications lawyer, please call me at (407) 260-6001 and schedule an initial consultation with me. See Our Retainer Fee Policies.
At the consultation I will listen your situation and ask you a few question. Then I will explain what I can or cannot do for you in family court. If you have a case that should be litigated, I will then quote you the amount of my retainer fee. In almost all cases, the retainer fee is a fixed or flat amount that I you will know about before making a payment or signing a contract, not an hourly rate whose total payment is not predictable.
Our attorney retainer fees for post judgment modification of decrees are between $1,800 and $3,000 depending on the degree of complexity of the case.
AAA Family Law represents clients in all of the county courtrooms of the Orlando metro area. We can also represent you in any family law appeal case in the state of Florida.
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AAA Family Law
283 Cranes Roost Blvd., Suite 111
Altamonte Springs, Florida 32701
AAA Family Law is located in Altamonte Springs and serves clients throughout the Orlando Metro Area including, but not limited to, the following cities and unincorporated areas, by county: Orange County: Apopka, Bay Lake, Maitland, Ocoee, Orlando, Union Park, Winter Garden, and Winter Park; Seminole County: Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Lake Mary, Longwood, Oviedo, Sanford, and Winter Springs; Volusia County: Daytona Beach, DeBary, DeLand, Deltona, and Orange City; Lake County: Clermont, Leesburg, and Mount Dora; Osceola County: Buena Ventura Lakes, Celebration, and Kissimmee; Orange, Lake, Osceola, and Polk Counties: Four Corners; Orange and Seminole Counties: Goldenrod.