Once your divorce is final in California, the property division issues can’t be changed, but other aspects of the divorce decree or settlement can be subject to modification. The judge is not going to retry your case or discard what you’ve agreed to in your settlement, but the court does maintain jurisdiction over issues of custody, visitation and support. You can agree to modify your order or settlement, but in order to get the court to take action, a party must prove that there has been a change of circumstances that is significant enough to require a modification. Courts are reluctant to interfere with settled matters, making post-dissolution modifications an uphill battle. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced California matrimonial attorney with experience handling post-dissolution hearings. Envision Family Law, LLP has a reputation for providing excellent service and getting great results.
Modification of Custody
If you believe there’s been a significant change of circumstances that requires a modification of the post-dissolution “permanent” order, a modification can be requested by submitting a “Request for Orders” (RFO) with the court. California law allows such a modification when the court finds that it is “necessary and proper” and in the child’s best interests. It’s crucial to understand that courts loath to change the status of custody for minor children because it interferes with the goal of continuity and stability in children’s lives. It’s necessary to prove that there has been a change that’s so significant that a modification is required for the child’s welfare. Without such a showing, the modification would be considered an abuse of discretion for denying children the continuing benefit of a stable home environment. A court is unlikely to grant a change in custody absent extreme facts such as physical or emotional abuse, parental alienation, alcohol or drug abuse or a change in residence by the custodial parent that makes it extremely difficult for the other parent to visit.
Modification of Visitation
It’s not necessary to make a showing of changed circumstances as a prerequisite to a parenting time schedule alteration, it must simply be in the child’s best interests. For example, if your “permanent” order states that you only have time with your child every other weekend, but now you’re working at home and have more time available, the court might agree that it’s in the child’s best interests for you to have more time. Other examples include a parent that was only seeing a child once a month because they have moved many hours away but wants more time after moving closer to where the child lives.
Child Support Modification
Child support and spousal support can be modified from the amount specified in a permanent order based on significant changes in either or both parents’ income or the time they spend with children. In order to be successful with the application for a modification, the change cannot be temporary and must be substantial change in one or more of the following circumstances:
- Custody or visitation terms;
- Parental income;
- Children’s expenses;
- Incarceration or
- Military deployment.
Changes in custody or visitation are relevant because time spent with children often means that the expenses of that time are covered, including meals and housing. Involuntary loss of employment or loss of a major business client for a self-employed individual is evidence that will be considered by the court in making its determination. If a child is diagnosed with a serious illness, the court may consider increasing the amount of child support paid by the non-custodial parent to cover additional expenses. The court might modify the order again if the child recovers from the illness and the expenses are reduced.
Spousal Support Modification
The amount of spousal support is subject to modification unless it is based on a settlement agreement that specifies that it cannot be modified. Spousal support modifications are more complicated than changes in child support because the computer program cannot be utilized to make this determination. The most common type of modification requested is a reduction in spousal support based on a significant change in circumstances by the supporting spouse. The claim usually takes the form of the supporting spouse claiming that their income went down and that their spouse’s income went up.
California Post-Dissolution Hearings Attorney
If you believe that circumstances have changed significantly enough to merit a modification of custody, visitation or support, it’s important to work with an experienced California post-dissolution hearings attorney that knows how to help you achieve your goals. Envision Family Law, LLP has earned its reputation for excellent customer service and great results.