Divorce is a stressful experience that can influence your life in many ways for years to come. Unfortunately, once you have your divorce order in hand, this does not necessarily mean the issue is closed forever. It’s not uncommon for divorced people to need to return to the family court system to revisit divorce-related issues and seek modifications to their divorce orders. You may need to do this if you experience unforeseen life events that materially alter any part of your divorce decree.
If you find yourself in this position, there are options. The family court system offers a means of changing an existing family court order without the need for a complex and time-consuming appeals process. Instead of filing an appeal against your divorce order, you simply need to petition the court for a modification of your divorce order. It’s possible to change child custody, child support, and spousal support terms through the modification process. Still, it’s vital to know how to accomplish this and what you can expect from filing a petition for family court order modification in Columbia, MO.
What Is Modification?
Divorce order modification is a straightforward and effective system for changing an element of your family court order. Many divorced individuals must undergo the modification process after experiencing certain life events or making plans that would render their existing family court order untenable. A few situations that commonly lead to divorce order modification proceedings include:
- Relocation. If you have a child custody agreement and decide to move, or if your ex-spouse has custody rights and wishes to relocate, modification may be necessary. You may need to return to court to have your custody agreement modified or to prevent your ex from relocating with your children.
- Change in income. If you pay child support and/or alimony and experience a significant change in income, you may need a modification. These changes could make it impossible for you to continue meeting your financial obligations set forth by your divorce order.
- Violation of family court order terms. Suppose your ex-spouse has repeatedly violated the terms of your divorce agreement. In that case, you may need to initiate modification proceedings to account for this behavior and enact stricter terms in your divorce order. Repeated family court order violations may potentially lead to criminal charges in some cases, depending on the nature and the severity of the alleged violations. Requesting a modification to your family court order is generally a first step toward correcting unwanted behavior from an ex. However, you may need to go further and initiate contempt proceedings if their behavior continues.
- Disability or injury. If you experience a severe injury, contract a serious illness, or develop a medical disability from an accident, this new development may interfere with your ability to adhere to the terms of your family court order. You can seek a modification that accounts for your new circumstances to avoid penalties.
These are only a few possible examples of situations that typically lead to filing modification petitions in family court. If you believe that recent events have impacted your ability to follow the terms of your family court order or your ex-spouse has done something that you believe affects your family court order, call our firm. You should explain the situation with an experienced attorney to help you begin the modification petition process.
What to Expect With Your Family Court Order Modification
The modification process is straightforward. Most petitions for modification will only require one hearing before they are approved or rejected. The process begins when a party beholden to a family court order files a petition for modification with the local family court. The petitioner must clearly state the desired change to their family court order and provide a comprehensive explanation of their reasons for seeking this change.
Once the court receives the petition, the respondent to the petition is formally notified of the modification petition and the court sets a hearing date. During this hearing, both the petitioner and the respondent will have the chance to speak on the issue. Some modifications are minor, and the respondent may agree to the petitioner’s proposed change with no rebuttal. It’s also possible for the respondent to aggressively protest the petition, offering contradictory evidence to disprove the petitioner’s reasoning for seeking the desired modification.
The judge overseeing the hearing will consider both sides of the issue, schedule further hearings if necessary, or request additional information from one or both parties. For example, if your ex-spouse is petitioning for expanded custody rights so they can relocate and take your child with them, they will need to prove that this change would better suit your child’s best interests than your current custody arrangement. To fight this change, you would need to prove that your current situation better aligns with your child’s best interests. You could also counter their petition by providing evidence that you should assume expanded custody rights so they can relocate on their own.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Modification?
The right attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your modification proceedings. An attorney will help you draft a compelling petition that includes all of the supporting information you need to make a strong case and prove that your desired modification is more reasonable and tenable than your current family court order. You may need to provide medical records, proof of a change in your income, or even police reports depending on the type of change you are seeking.
It’s not uncommon for life events that influence a standing family court order to arise very suddenly with little to no warning, so it’s often necessary to work quickly when you need to petition for modification for your family court order. The right attorney can streamline the process for you, help you draft your petition, and help you gather the supplemental information you will need to submit to the court along with your petition. Reach out to an experienced Columbia, MO family law attorney today to discuss your intended modifications and find out how your attorney can assist you.