3 Common Types of Divorce Modifications
When a couple completes a divorce, the court issues an order outlining their obligations in terms of alimony, child custody, and child support. While these directives are considered permanent, people working in the judicial system are aware that circumstances change. It’s not uncommon for people to revisit the ruling and ask for modifications. If a judge agrees that changes are in everyone’s best interest, divorce decree modifications may be approved. Our experienced Salt Lake City Utah attorneys at Wall & Wall Attorneys at Law would love to assist you in any of these modifications.
1. Child Support
One of the most commonly requested and approved divorce order modifications is an increase or decrease in child support. To gain court approval, you’ll need to demonstrate a significant change in your or your former spouse’s financial circumstances. The changes can be temporary, permanent or subject to review at a later date. Reasons to change child support include:
- Custodial or non-custodial parent has become unemployed
- Significant increase or loss of income
- Higher cost of living
- Health care costs of child have increased
- Cost of educating child has increased
- Unforeseen hardship of a parent caused by illness or injury
- Unforeseen economic hardship
- A change to child placement or custody
If any of these changes have occurred and you want to proceed with modifying a divorce order, a motion to change will need to be filed with the court. You will need to meet certain standards and thresholds for the court to accept the petition. A petition to change a child support order that is more than three years requires meeting the following minimum standards.
- A 10 percent difference exists between the support ordered and the required amount under the state’s guidelines
- That difference is not a temporary financial situation
- The child support is inconsistent with state guidelines
The Utah courts may review petitions to modify child support during the first three years. These circumstances must be what the court refers to as “material changes,” meaning they are not temporary and constitute a 15-percent or greater difference between the existing order and state support guidelines. These include:
- Change in custody
- Substantial change in wealth
- Income change of 30 percent or greater
- Change in earning potential of either parent
- Health care needs of the child
- A parent’s legal support or responsibility for others
- Significant changes to health insurance coverage
- Child care expenses related to work or education
- Emancipation of the child
- In Utah, child support can be changed at any time under the following conditions.
- Child reaches the age of majority (18)
- Health coverage costs or insurance availability significantly changes
- Child tax exemption award changes
2. Child Custody
Parents have ideas about how they want their child raised and the court generally considers those wishes. However, the court will only entertain a request to change child custody if it is in the best interest of the child. When considering a change, courts often look at significant changes in the lives of the parties. These include:
- A parent remarries
- A parent is unable to adequately care for the child
- Unfit parent, domestic partner or new spouse
- Child abuse or neglect
- Relocation for work, education or family reasons
- Child’s health issues
- Child doing poorly in school
- Changes in religious affiliation and beliefs
When reviewing a motion to change custody, a judge will evaluate the family’s history, the nature of the divorce and each parent’s relationship with the child. Courts take into consideration a wide range of factors all geared toward making a decision that serves the best interests of the child.
Much like child support, alimony payments can also be altered due to a significant change in financial circumstances. These may include:
- Dependent spouse remarries. The termination of support is generally automatic upon marriage unless an order stipulates ongoing payments.
- The person receiving alimony is cohabitating with a romantic partner
- Changes in employment. The payor can request a reduction due to loss of employment. The dependent party can ask for an increase due to lost employment.
- Retirement can be considered a substantial change and a reason to alter alimony
- Serious illness is grounds to reevaluate an increase or decrease alimony payments
In Utah, the courts do not require alimony if a person cannot support themselves. However, unforeseen circumstances that negatively affect either party may prompt the court to modify alimony. Both situations may be deemed temporary by a judge and the original order can be restored to the improved conditions of the parties.
Legal Representation from Wall Legal Solutions
At Wall & Wall Attorneys at Law, we provide experienced divorce and family law representation. Contact our Salt Lake City offices for a free post-divorce modification consultation at 801-441-2388. We are here to help you.