At the end of a divorce case, the judge signs a document entitled “Final Decree of Divorce.” However, this document is not final in the sense that it is the last word on the subject. Most marriage dissolutions lie dormant for several years at a time, but they are never final in that sense of the word.
In 2016, Illinois lawmakers significantly reworked the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Among other things, these changes made it easier to legally modify a divorce decree in many situations. That is especially true if the proposed changes are agreed upon.
These changes are good news for most families. Financial and emotional circumstances change. Sometimes these changes occur slowly over time. In other cases, the changes occur suddenly and without warning. A motion to modify could be appropriate in either scenario.
Most people change jobs frequently, and these changes almost always involve salary increases or reductions. Additionally, annual salary reviews are common. Each parent’s income is usually the largest factor in a child support award. When income changes, the child support amount should probably change, as well.
Generally, Illinois law presumes that any income change greater than $200 a month constitutes a significant change of circumstances. Whether the change is an increase or decrease, prompt action is usually essential. Obligees (people receiving support) need additional support today, and not tomorrow. For obligors (people paying support), reductions are generally not retroactive. There is no way to recover overpayments.
Income changes must be involuntary, at least for the most part. Obligors cannot leave high-paying jobs to artificially reduce their child support obligations.
Child-related expenses changes, such as higher private school tuition or medical costs, might justify a modification, as well. These changes must be unanticipated. Preschoolers get older and leave daycare. So, reduced daycare costs do not justify child support reduction.
These same rules apply with regard to alimony modifications. The aforementioned legal changes might have impacted spousal support more than any other area.
The obligor’s retirement does not automatically trigger a spousal support cutoff or even reduction. A judge will usually adjust the support amount in these cases, provided that the obligor’s retirement was not related to a desire to end alimony payments.
On a related note, a reduction or elimination might be in order if the obligee is in a committed relationship with another person. The judge will take a number of factors into consideration, such as the length of the relationship and the extent of any shared financial arrangements.
Emotional factors often change, as well. Some children feel closer to their mothers, and others feel closer to their fathers.
Additionally, a parent’s ability to care for the children, and even have contact with them, might change. The onset or removal of a disability is a good example. If a residential parent develops a substance abuse problem, the children might need a safer living environment. Conversely, if a nonresidential parent overcomes a substance abuse problem, extended child visitation might be appropriate.
Reach Out to a Tenacious Lawyer
Divorce modification actions are about as common as marriage dissolution actions. For a free consultation with an experienced Hoffman Estates divorce attorney, contact Andrea Heckman Law. After-hours visits are available.