Modification of Orders
Florida Lawyers practicing Family Law are well-versed in the process of modifying previous court orders. In this economy, you have to be. Job loss, loss of benefits, relocation—all of these unexpected events can create a situation where custody, child support, and spousal benefits are brought once more to the table for amendment and modification. The loss of a job does not mean that you are relieved of your court approved settlements and agreements unless you create what is called a “Modification of Orders” that is also approved by the family courts. Should you decide on your own, without the court’s permission, to discontinue paying child support or spousal support your ex can petition the courts for wage garnishment, property liens, or to have the money removed from your bank account without your consent.
When an unexpected event happens you must follow the correct legal process and appeal to the courts for a modification, temporary or permanent, to the final orders issued in your case.
I help individuals all the time work within the court system to have their final orders modified when an event such as job loss or hospitalization occurs. If you find yourself in a situation beyond your control that will affect your ability to meet your court ordered obligations please seek legal counsel. I can assist you with finding an appropriate solution to your life changing event.
Modification of Family Law Orders in Orlando
Persuasive Advocacy When Sudden Changes Make Divorce Orders Unfair
Whether you are involved in a divorce or paternity action in Florida, a range of potential issues might arise in the future. Because experienced Orlando family law attorney Beryl Thompson-McClary has represented clients in many complex divorces and other family law cases, she can deftly resolve contentious issues and anticipate disputes that might arise in the future. By foreseeing pitfalls that can undermine the fairness of a child custody, alimony, or child support order included in a judgment, our law firm can diffuse these potential conflicts through negotiation and artful drafting of settlement documents.
Florida law provides a process for modifying orders in a divorce or paternity judgment. However, the process of obtaining the child custody, alimony, child support, or other orders you prefer becomes much more difficult after a judgment in most situations. Judges consistent apply the “change of circumstances” test to determine whether modification can even be considered by the court. If this test is not satisfied when seeking modification of a child custody order in a judgment, for example, the judge cannot simply apply the “best interest of the child” standard, as the court would have before judgment was entered in the case.
Modification of Alimony in Florida
Most forms of alimony in a judgment of divorce can be modified as long as the judgment awarded some form of alimony. If the original judgment does not mention alimony, then the orders cannot subsequently be modified to award alimony. When representing parties who are not seeking alimony at the time of divorce but might need it in the future, attorney Beryl Thompson-McClary often incorporates “nominal” alimony in the judgment to preserve the issue.
The party seeking a change that increases, decreases, or terminates spousal support must prove the existence of a substantial, unexpected, and involuntary change of circumstances in terms of the need of the recipient or ability to pay of the obligated party. Another potential obstacle must be overcome before applying the change of circumstances standard. The judgment must indicate that the court retains jurisdiction over alimony. While this language typically will be included in the final judgment, the language is not mandatory.
Although every modification request will be evaluated based on the specific facts, there are certain types of changes that often merit a modification, including the following examples:
- Remarriage of the recipient spouse
- Substantial unexpected increase/decrease in income (e.g. spouse wins lottery a month after judgment)
- Unanticipated medical issues that impair the ability to work or earning capacity
- Retirement of the payor at age 65+
- Substantial inheritance
- Long-term unemployment (involuntary)
- Significant raise
- Fraud of the payee in obtaining the initial award
Compelling advocacy is important when seeking a modification of alimony because these examples MIGHT be determined to justify modification of a spousal support award. However, a modification is far from guaranteed. Generally, certain types of changes that are within the control of the party seeking relief or that are reasonably foreseeable at the time of the divorce judgment will not justify a modification. Examples include the following:
- Voluntarily changing to a lower paying job or quitting
- Award of bridge-the-gap or lump sum alimony
- Higher expenses associated with payor spouse’s remarriage
- Marital settlement agreement indicating alimony is “not modifiable.”
- Moderate improvement in the recipient spouse’s income
Because of the subjective and fact specific nature of this analysis, the skill and experience of your Orlando alimony modification attorney can significantly improve your chance of success.
Modification of Child Custody in Florida
Modification of child custody in Florida mirrors modification of alimony in the sense that the court must find a substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances. If this showing is made, the judge can modify the child custody orders in a divorce or paternity judgment if the change would be in the child’s best interest. This two-step process involved in a child custody judgment was established by the Florida Supreme Court in Wade v. Hirshman.
Like the threshold test for a modification in alimony under Florida law, the substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances standard is ambiguous and difficult to prove. The change cannot have been reasonably contemplated at the time of the child custody judgment. Although the evaluation of whether a change of circumstances justifies consideration of a modification normally will be determined on a case by case basis, certain situations will justify consideration of a change in circumstances, such as:
- Child abuse
- Multiple DUI arrests with the child in the vehicle
- Death of a parent
- Long-term imprisonment of a parent
Circumstances that might justify a change of circumstances include substance abuse, a serious medical condition, or a significant negative change in financial condition. However, these types of issues usually will require establishing that the conduct has had an adverse impact on the child.
Modification of Child Support Under Florida Law
While a change of circumstances must also be established for a modification of child support, the standard usually will be easier to satisfy in the context of child support. A change in the income of either parent is sufficient to justify a modification since the child has a right to receive support according to the Florida Child Support Guidelines.
Contact the Law Offices of Beryl Thompson-McClary P.A. Today
If you seek to modify the judgment in a paternity action or divorce, a command of existing case law involving the necessary showing of a change in circumstances will be essential. Orlando divorce judgment modification attorney Beryl Thompson-McClary has handled a broad spectrum of divorce and paternity judgment modification requests during her 27 years practicing law. This background has equipped her to provide a candid assessment of your probability of success. If the facts support such a request, we are prepared to persuasively argue for a change. We have law offices in Orlando and practice in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake, Brevard, and Volusia counties. To schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney, you can call our office at 888-640-2999.