Modification of a Prior Family Law Order

After an initial decree of divorce, child support, or child custody order is rendered, it may be necessary to modify that order. It may be that the situation of the parents has changed, it may be that the situation of the child has changed, it may be that a provision of your order simply no longer works for those under it any longer. Whatever the reason, modifying that order is a legal remedy you may be entitled to.

When Can You Modify?

The defining issue that determines whether your order can be modified is whether there has been a “material and substantial change in the circumstances of the child or parents that makes modifying the prior order in the best interest of the child. If you are seeking modification less than one year after the prior order, there may be additional steps other than just a material and substantial change.

An order of child support may be modified at any time upon a showing of substantial change in circumstances or after three years from the original order if the amount of support would change by $100 per month or 20%.

How Do I Begin?

A modification is not the type of case you want to attempt yourself. Modifications, in many instances, can be as complicated or more than the original case. To begin the case, a legal request for modification must be prepared and filed with the court. This is very similar to the pleadings filed in the original case.

The other party is served with notice of the lawsuit, generally by a process server. Depending on the issues and the court, mediation may be required. If an agreement cannot be reached, the court will hold a final trial on the merits and make a ruling on the issues in this case. Temporary Orders hearings are only held in modification cases when operating under the previous court order would harm the emotional or physical development of the child.

The responding party’s answer must be returned to you (or your attorney) and the answer filed with the court within twenty days after service of the petition.