Life just happens. Despite our best efforts, we cannot control everything. People lose their jobs, a child needs extra tutoring or an ex-spouse falls gravely ill.
In these situations and others like them, you may have to ask a judge to modify the terms of your existing divorce order. Generally, judges understand that circumstances change as time goes by. However, presenting your case and documenting why you are asking for a spousal maintenance or child support modification order can be difficult without an experienced attorney by your side.
Judges are sometimes reluctant to deviate from legislatively determined guidelines without substantial documentation of why they should. A judge looks for proof of a "substantial" change in your or your spouse's circumstances before he or she will modify an existing order.
Circumstances that might justify a change in a term of your existing divorce decree:
If the spouse receiving the support makes enough money to be self-supporting
If the spouse paying the support loses a job or has reduced hours of employment
A change in a parent's health situation that affects his or her ability to work
If there is a change in the children's needs for school or health
A spouse remarries and no longer needs the support
We recommend that you do not wait too long to ask the court for a new order if your situation changes, as it will only make things worse for you. If you are injured, for example, and are on unpaid leave for a few weeks, you might think that a temporary drop in income will not affect you much.
However, in the event it does, or you are out of work much longer than you anticipated, you will still have a legal obligation to comply with the terms of the decree in effect when tragedy struck. You are not able to request that a change in your obligation be made retroactive.
With more than 45 years of experience as a family law attorney, and a thorough understanding of the tax effects of property exchanges as a result of divorce, I can help you make and understand these difficult decisions. Even if you decide to, or can agree on the other terms of your divorce, like child custody and child and spousal support, you should consider having an attorney experienced with property division process and tax consequences help you.
If your circumstances change and a modification is necessary in order for you to adjust to your situation, contact a lawyer immediately. The date of filing a modification request is the date that it will become effective if granted. Please call me at 925-460-8000 or contact me online to discuss whether a modification request is appropriate in your circumstances.
Silverman Divorce & Mediation Law is located in San Ramon and Pleasanton, California, and assists clients throughout the state on modification matters.