Life changes after a divorce. When significant changes occur, your divorce decree may need to be modified to reflect those changes.
The attorneys at Leigh Daniel Family Law in Huntsville, AL, can help you seek a divorce modification order in Madison County family law court to accommodate the changing circumstances that you and your family have experienced. Many divorce modification orders address needed changes in child support or spousal support. Other modifications address child custody arrangements as children grow older and their needs change
Whether you are seeking to modify your divorce settlement or you wish to oppose changes proposed by your ex-spouse, attorney Leigh Daniel can help. She has more than 20 years of experience helping clients work through the issues that arise during all stages of separation and divorce. The legal team at Leigh Daniel Family Law is ready to assist you with a divorce modification petition.
Contact us today and let our experienced Huntsville divorce modification lawyers discuss your needs.
What Divorce Modifications Can I Make?
You can change just about anything in your divorce order if you can persuade a judge that a material change in your life makes the modification necessary. The one exception involves changes to property division agreements. The court will not modify the divorce order pertaining to property division after a divorce has been settled for 30 days. But the parties may negotiate changes to property issues on their own.
A petition for modification to a divorce order may ask for:
- An increase in child support payments, such as a request for more support as children grow older and become more active in extracurricular activities.
- A reduction or cessation of child support payments as a child reaches adulthood or leaves school.
- A reduction in alimony if the paying party loses their job or suffers another unavoidable financial setback, such as an injury or illness.
- A cessation of alimony for a recipient who remarries.
- Changes in visitation rules if one party moves out of state or their work schedule changes.
- Approval of a child’s request for a change in physical custody.
A petition for modification may be filed at any time after the divorce is finalized. However, you will need to show that a significant change in circumstances has occurred. A change of heart about a divorce agreement or lingering unhappiness about an unfavorable outcome is not sufficient.
What Do I Have To Prove To Modify My Divorce?
When petitioning to change a divorce order, the issue is persuading the judge that the change is appropriate. There is nothing in Alabama divorce law to define a “material change,” and there’s nothing to address how a judge should weigh the necessity of the change. However, we can expect any judge to consider whether a change is fair to both parties and if it has an impact on children, whether it is in the best interests of the children.
For example, a petition to modify a child support order needs to persuade a judge that:
- A material or substantial change has occurred in the payer and/or recipient parent’s life that affects an ex’s ability to pay or the amount needed for child support.
- A change in a child support payment will ensure that the child’s best interests are met; and
- The benefits derived from the change far outweigh the disruption caused.
If the paying spouse has a valid reason for not being able to continue payments as ordered, such as loss of their job or a disabling injury, the judge must consider this material change in their life. Further, there may be reasons it costs less to raise the child than expected (for example, a child who chose to leave a private school) and the receiving spouse may have a higher income a year or two after the divorce. There is likely to be room for reasonable accommodation here.
Other petitions for modifying a divorce order may be necessitated because of negative material changes in one parent’s life that make them unfit for child custody or for the current visitation schedule, such as:
- Long-term unemployment,
- Debilitating illness,
- Conviction on criminal charges,
- Excessive drug or alcohol use,
- Evidence of child neglect or abuse,
- A new cohabitation arrangement that is detrimental to the children.
The Process To Modify Your Alabama Divorce
You must petition a judge to modify your divorce agreement.
If both parties agree to the modification, you can complete, sign and file an Amend Settlement Agreement with the court. A judge may approve simple changes without a hearing or ask to hear from both parties to explain an extensive change or one with a significant impact on either or both parties.
If one party seeks the modification, he or she would file a petition and request the petition be served on the ex-spouse. After the petition is served, they would have 30 days to file a response. This could simply ask that the request be denied or call for their own modifications to the agreement.
Without an agreement, a court case opens, with each side seeking to compile evidence that strengthens its case. This includes discovery, which offers each side a chance to explore the other’s case, including by taking sworn statements in response to questions, from the opposing party and their witnesses. If the case goes to a hearing, each side has the opportunity to present its case, with testimony and other evidence, which the opposing side could challenge.
A judge may order the parties to try to resolve their differences through mediation, an alternative dispute resolution process outside of court. If mediation was successful, the parties would return to court with an agreement the judge could use to modify the divorce decree.
Schedule Free Case Review With Our Experienced Divorce Modification Lawyer
If there are legitimate reasons to change your Alabama divorce order, it does not have to become a complicated issue. Leigh Daniel, Attorney at Law, can help you file a petition to modify a divorce order or help you answer a modification petition. She can help you negotiate with your former spouse or build a strong case for you to take to court.
Leigh Daniel has more than 20 years of experience handling divorces in Huntsville and Madison County, Alabama. She has experience with military divorces and has special training in helping clients deal with narcissistic spouses during a divorce. Speak with Leigh about reviewing your needs and developing a strategy to achieve the outcome you want if you or your ex-spouse is seeking to modify your divorce agreement.
Our goal is to help you focus on the future and see positive changes in your life.