Arizona Family Law Question:

Recently, (a month ago) I Got a Ruling on My Family Law Case, Can I Modify It?

Post-Decree Modifications

Family law modification attorney blogAfter the conclusion of a divorce or child custody case, you may have need to change the terms of the orders issued in your case. Whether it’s for issues of child or spousal support, child custody, or your parenting plan, a modification can be granted for certain reasons and if other requirements are met. 

Reasons for a Modification in your Arizona Family Law Case

Your reason for seeking a modification may be unique to your circumstances, but common reasons for seeking a modification include:

  • A change in one or both of the parents’ schedules that makes the current parenting plan ineffective
  • The party making support payments experiences a substantial and continuing change in circumstances, such as retiring or having another child
  • A child for which support payments are made ages out of child support
  • A spouse receiving alimony payments remarries
  • One of the parents moves
  • The children’s needs and preferences change as they age

Modifying the Terms of Your Divorce

If you are seeking to change the terms of your divorce, the first thing you will need to do is review the court order to see if it is non-modifiable. Orders for spousal support and property division often are. This helps reduce the amount of contemptuous litigation between former spouses. Once orders have been made, there is typically a one year waiting period until they are eligible for modification. 

Modifying or Terminating Child Support and Spousal Support (Alimony)

Arizona family law modification attorney blogChild support orders aren’t non-modifiable like some spousal support orders are. Both types of support order may also include a clause for automatic yearly adjustment for cost of living based on a designated financial reporter. 

A support modification will only be heard at most once per year. Child support can only be reduced if the paying parent experiences a substantial (10% or more) and continuing change in circumstances. If the party is granted a modification but experiences a further decrease in income, they will be barred from requesting another modification for one year from the date of their last modification. 

Once support payments are due, they can’t be modified. If you have support orders in place that you can no longer afford, you need to modify your orders as soon as possible so you don’t fall behind on payments. Child and spousal support arrearages can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, and allow for far more aggressive methods of collection than ordinary debts. 

The support orders will also need to be modified when the child in question reaches adulthood and/or graduates high school, or the spouse who receives alimony remarries. The paying parent should bring a motion to terminate child support when the child turns 19 or graduates high school, whichever comes first. 

Child Visitation and Child Custody Modifications in Arizona

If one parent plans to move out of state, the parenting plan currently in place will likely need drastic changes. Plans that were closer to 50/50 may now need to change to the child primarily living with one parent and spending summers and other school breaks with the other parent. A major parenting plan change like this may also affect the amount of child support that needs to be paid. 

When deciding matters of child visitation and child custody in Arizona, the judge will keep the child’s best interests as the top priority. One parent or their new partner may be a bad role model for the child. There is usually a one year period to wait after an order has been issued or modified, but that restriction can be waived if the child’s safety and well-being is at risk. 

Are formal modifications necessary? We agree. Can’t we just go with that?

You and your ex may currently have an amicable relationship and verbally agree that your orders need to be changed. However, if your relationship sours, your verbal agreement isn’t enforceable by the court. Without proper documentation of the verbal modification, your ex may even use your noncompliance with the order as evidence against you in your next custody or support hearing. Child support payments are typically made through the Department of Child Support Services, and you will accrue arrearages if you fail to formally modify a support order. 

What NOT To Do if You Disagree with Your Family Law Court Order

  1. Don’t violate the order- This can be used as evidence against you in future custody hearings, and may even constitute kidnapping. If you refuse to make support payments, you will simply amass a huge, non-dischargeable debt that can result in a costly wage garnishment. 
  2. Don’t lose hope- Family law orders can be modified, so don’t fail to seek a modification if your current orders are detrimental to yourself and your family. There is no one year restriction for modifications in emergency child custody situations. 
  3. Don’t misplace blame- Blaming your children for your family law orders, or voicing your frustrations with their other parent can create tension in your relationship with your children. 

Discuss Your Modification with Our Arizona Family Law Attorneys

The short answer to the question at hand is that the ruling can only be modified in limited, serious circumstances. Courts are hesitant to grant requests for modification, and your ex will have the opportunity to present evidence and argue why the court orders shouldn’t be changed, possibly with the representation of a family law attorney. Your best chance of success comes with the guidance and advocacy of an experienced Arizona family law attorney. Our attorneys have spent years successfully modifying family law orders for clients with situations similar to yours.

Don’t assume you can’t afford an attorney before you’ve consulted with our firm. Our Arizona Family attorneys offer free initial consultations, affordable retainers, and monthly payment plan options. A favorable ruling in a support modification can save you more in the long run. Take the first step towards the best possible outcome in your family law case by calling for your free consultation today.  Your family attorneys at My Arizona Lawyers are experienced and ready to assist you with your Arizona family law needs.