Finalizing your divorce or a suit affecting a parent-child relationship can provide a satisfying sense of closure. When this occurs, an order is entered with the court. As time passes, and you get on with your life and your children grow, you, your ex-spouse, or the other biological parent, may wish to reopen the case to make some changes to the existing orders and provisions.
This usually occurs when circumstances change and the existing order no longer works or needs to be amended for only certain issues. In order to reopen a case, you will need to ask the family law court to modify your divorce or custody order (SAPCR) by filing a petition to modify the earlier order.
Here are seven examples of changes in an order that can warrant modification.
- Your work schedule has changed due to the economy and you need to lower your child support obligation. If you work fewer hours now than you did at the time of your divorce or the SAPCR was entered, and because your employer has lowered the hours that you can work and not because you chose to work less, you should be entitled to lower your child support obligation.
- Your former spouse’s work schedule has changed. Your ex works more hours now than he or she did while you were married. This means the kids are left with caretakers during work hours, and you’re not sure these caretakers are the best role models for your children. You could then go back to court to ask that you have the first right to spend time with your children rather than your ex using caretakers.
- Your children are having problems at school. Bad grades, negative performance issues, unsuitable friends and an unacceptable attitude can be signs that your children need help and that the time they spend with their other parent may not be in their best interest or the other parent isn’t focused on school, homework and grade issues. If this is not handled quickly, the possibility of future learning may be compromised.
- Your former spouse’s, or the other parent’s, new love interest or partner, and your child don’t get along. At times, a new partner can become jealous or abusive when a child’s needs have to be met and time is taken from the partner. They will sometimes act out against the child or they may simply not get along and tensions will grow. When this happens, your former spouse or the other parent, and the new or existing partner, should both have your children’s best interests in mind, but if they do not, then modifying the order may be necessary in order to make sure the environment the child is in is a healthy one.
- There are safety concerns. Does your former spouse’s new partner have an unfenced swimming pool in the back yard? Are your children reluctant to leave your home because they are afraid of how they’ll be treated by someone in your former spouse’s circle of friends? Are your children not allowed to call you when they are at the other parent’s home? Do the children have bruises on their body? Are they suddenly wetting the bed? Are negative comments being made against the other parent that affect the child’s emotional state? Is the child being transported without a safety seat? These types of fact-based safety concerns are not in the child’s best interest and they won’t be taken lightly by the court.
- Your ex wants to move. Your former spouse or the other parent wants to move outside the jurisdiction of the court or so far away that the commute between homes will substantially affect your relationship with your child and/or the child’s schedule and stability.
- Your ex has a substance abuse problem. Is the former spouse or other parent drunk or intoxicated when they are with the children? If you have evidence that your child is being exposed to drugs, drinking, intoxication in the presence of the other parent, etc., then this type of situation is unacceptable and needs to be dealt with quickly before the child ends up injured. These types of allegations must be based in fact.
As you can see, this is only a short list of the reasons why you might want to modify an existing order of the court. The family law court values closure in matters as much as you do, but a judge will reopen your case and modify your current orders so long as what is being asked is in the best interest of your child.
The experienced family law attorneys at Goldstein & Scopellite, P.C., can help you assess whether filing for a modification is the right choice for your family.