After a divorce has been finalized, one or both parties will have certain rights and responsibilities to uphold according to the divorce agreement. In many cases, after divorce, the circumstances of one or both parties can change, causing the need to revise the terms of the divorce agreement. In many cases, modification of one or more of the terms may be required. Common reasons why a modification may be needed include:
- Loss of employment or income of either parent
- Illness or injury to parent or child
- Relocation of one parent
- Change in visitation schedule
- Remarriage of one parent (if terms of remarriage are not already established in divorce agreement)
Because every divorce agreement is different, not all significant changes in circumstances or lifestyle will qualify for a modification. Individuals seeking to modify the divorce agreement must file a petition with the court explaining the circumstances before a modification can be made. This process is best done with the aid of an experienced modification attorney to ensure that the proper legal channels are followed.
What Terms Can and Cannot Be Modified?
Because divorce agreements are enforceable by law, it is important to understand the terms and be proactive in modifying any agreements that become difficult or impossible to manage. Common terms in a divorce agreement that may be modified include:
- Child Support - The state of Florida utilizes a comprehensive guideline system to determine child support amounts. Either parent can request a modification if he or she can show a significant increase in the income of the other parent, or a significant decrease in his or her own income.
- Child Custody/Timesharing and Visitation- The terms of these agreements may be modified if one parent relocates, has a significant change in employment schedules, or remarries changing the family dynamic.
- Spousal Support - While alimony is traditionally non-modifiable, there are specific circumstances that may allow the court to terminate payments, such as the payee gaining financial independence or remarrying.
Some specific circumstances are not modifiable after the final divorce agreement is finalized by the court. Non-modifiable terms include:
- Alimony - Some types of alimony may not be modifiable unless both parties agree to the new provisions. Additionally, alimony cannot be ordered after the divorce has been finalized unless the court finalizing the divorce agreement has specific jurisdiction or has previously awarded alimony previsions.
- Property Division - Unless specific provisions have been outlined in the divorce agreement, property division terms also are generally not modifiable.
Obtaining a modification of divorce agreement terms is not always easy. The key to successfully modifying terms is having a working knowledge of the process and being willing to be forthcoming in the petition. Divorce agreements are finalized with the intent that they will be enforceable as is, and should only be modified under very specific circumstances. Fortunately, there is help available.
Contact an experienced Gainesville Family Law Attorney today to schedule a free consultation of your modification case.