What to Consider When Modifying Your Divorce Decree

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What to Consider When Modifying Your Divorce Decree

Relocations are the leading cause for child custody modifications. Most people move about 12 times in their lifetimes. Most people relocate for job purposes. As a result, these moves usually involve child support changes, and possibly spousal support changes, as well. Even if the other spouse agrees to custody or support changes, they need to be in writing. As far as officials are concerned, the current court orders are the only enforceable orders.

Most modifications are relatively straightforward. However, the rules are complex. Furthermore, both parents have important legal and financial rights. So, whether you are asking for a modification or trying to keep things the way they are, you need a Rolling Meadows family law attorney on your side. An attorney expedites the process while upholding your rights.

Types of Modifications

Almost all modifications involve financial or emotional changes. Most modifications involve both. These modifications could be tweaks to the existing order or reinvent-the-wheel wholesale changes.

Typical tweaks include parenting time adjustments and support payment adjustments. Changing school and work schedules often alter pick-up and drop-off times. For example, if Mother takes a job out of town, she might be unable to watch Junior after school. As for income changes, most people change jobs frequently. These changes almost always involve salary adjustments.

Sometimes, a parent wants to completely rework custody or support orders. Extreme changes in circumstances could justify such changes. Onset or removal of disability could prompt drastic changes to a child custody order. For example, if Mother had a drug problem, the judge would probably limit her visitation, at least initially. If she overcomes that addiction, the judge would probably end these restrictions.

As for support orders, alimony usually terminates upon remarriage, and child support usually terminates at age 18. However, some obligees (persons receiving spousal support payments) have long-term paramours but they do not get legally married. As for child support in Illinois, these payments can continue up to age 25 in some cases.

What You Must Prove

To change custody or visitation provisions, the moving parent must prove that the current order is unworkable and the requested modification is in the best interests of the child.

Some orders become unworkable as a matter of law. For example, Father could marry a woman with a recent domestic abuse conviction on her record. Other orders are unworkable on a practical level.

Many modifications fail the “best interests” test. Relocations are a good example. These modifications are almost always in the best interests of the parents. But they are not always in the best interests of the children.

Financial changes must be substantial, permanent, and honest. A substantial income change is usually more than a 10% income increase or decrease. Bonuses and temporary business upticks or downturns do not constitute permanent changes. As for honesty, obligors (people who pay support) cannot quit their jobs simply to reduce their financial obligations.

Resolving Disputes

Pre-filing or post-filing mediation usually resolves modification disputes. Over 90% of civil claims settle out of court.

Pre-filing mediation is often a good idea if the parents are on relatively good terms and the requested modification is not earth-shattering. If the parents agree to all terms, they can submit a joint motion to the court. Most judges approve such requests without holding hearings.

Generally, Cook County judges order mediation in contested cases. During these mediation sessions, both sides have a legal duty to negotiate in good faith. Therefore, even parents who are far apart are able to resolve their disputes.

Reach Out to a Savvy Cook County Attorney

Most custody and support orders need frequent modification. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Rolling Meadows, contact Andrea Heckman Law, Ltd. Convenient payment plans are available.

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