Economic Woes Create Demand for Decree Modification
As time passes and circumstances change, some aspects of your final divorce decree can be amended by a petition to modify the original terms. As a divorce lawyer, I can confirm that modifications are common in today’s challenging economic times.
A divorced spouse who experiences an income loss or reduction of at least 15 percent, for instance, may petition the court to lower child support or spousal support (alimony) payments. In fact, as the recession deepened and unemployment soared, a 2009 study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that 39 percent of divorce lawyers saw an increase in modifications of child support payments, while 42 percent cited an increase in spousal support modification.
Economic hardship may also cause the custodial spouse to relocate to find or to continue employment. This can result in:
- A request to modify the terms of custody and/or visitation, allowing the spouse to relocate beyond the radius originally agreed upon
- An overall change to the agreement, for example transferring custody to the parent who isn’t moving, so the child can remain in the same school
Rising costs of health care and child care can also be addressed through modification, as can additional expenses such as college tuition that may not have been addressed in the original decree. Of course, not all modifications result from gloomy circumstances. For example, a major increase in income may encourage an ex-spouse to share the wealth by increasing the amount of spousal or child support.
If you think a modification to support orders or other aspects of your divorce decree might be in order, talk to your family law attorney.