Santa Barbara Family Law Attorney Explains Modification of Orders
Court orders for child custody, child support, child visitation rights, spousal alimony, and other orders are made based on the facts and situations at the time of trial. But life moves on after divorce and people make drastic life changes that should be reflected in the court orders. When circumstances change, it’s important to seek advice from an experienced Santa Barbara family law attorney to determine if you have the legal right to seek modification of a family law order.
Modifications of orders may include:
- The amount of child support paid or received
- The amount of alimony paid or received
- Primary custody
- Visitation rights
When there is a substantial change in circumstances that sufficiently affects the dynamics relevant to a court order, it may be reasonable for a court to grant a modification. The request for this is done by filing a motion to the court.
States differ in how restrictive the laws are regarding the modification of family law orders. California’s laws are relatively lax, possibly because of the size of the state and the generally young population. These factors make it more likely for a major change, such as moving to a new city, after a divorce. The most common areas for modification in California include:
- Child custody
- Child visitation
- Child support
- Spousal support
Your specific situation has many different variables and it’s important you consult a Santa Barbara family law attorney for legal advice.
Child Custody/Visitation Modifications
The state of California especially emphasizes the joint custody rights of divorced parents. It is in fact home to the joint custody law in the US and continues to have the stance that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities over their children under normal circumstances. Changes to child custody and visitation orders may be sought at any time, meaning there is no waiting period. The court must find the modification to be “necessary and proper,” such as in the child’s best interest. There are not specific requirements that must be met. The parent or guardian seeking child custody modification must show the court there has been a “significant change in circumstances” that support the request. It’s imperative to speak to a Santa Barbara family law attorney if you are modifying any child custody or visitation rights.
Many parents seek changes to custody without exhibiting a very dramatic change in circumstances. Most modifications have to do the amount of each parent’s parenting time or for practical changes, such as schedule changes. This can be supplemented by the other parent or lawyer to justify the request. Some common reasons for seeking changes in custody include:
- The non-custodial parent moved closer to the other parent
- The non-custodial parent’s work schedule changed
- The child’s parental preference changed
- One parent is shown to exhibit irresponsible behavior, such as not taking the child to school on time, development of a substance abuse problem, etc.
- One parent wishes to relocate outside the geographical area where the child resides
- This is called a “move away” case
It is often difficult to change primary custody as the modification motions do not take into account anything that occurred before the initial order. The existing order is presumed to be correct and a modification that would make such a significant change to the lives of all individuals involved is difficult to justify.
Family Support Modification
Child support and spousal support fall under the family support umbrella. Modifications to these orders are based on significant changes in circumstances, such as:
- Income change – Only the income of the parents is relevant – the income gained from a stepparent or lost in the divorce of a stepparent is not taken into consideration. The income change must be permanent and unanticipated. The job change must be made in good faith – not just to avoid child support payments.
- Incarceration – Child support obligations are automatically suspended for 90 days by the state in the case of incarceration. If the sentence is longer than 90 days or the parent’s job status changes after release, a motion must be made to modify the original order.
- Parenting time – If the parent with primary custody of the children moves to a new city, this may make it difficult for the other parent to fulfill their visitation hours. This decrease in parenting time could justify a decrease in child support payments.
- Financial needs change – If the cost of child care changes, for example no longer needing a nanny, there may be justification in modification of child support payments
Changing court orders can be a difficult process with many influencing aspects. With all complicated legal processes, it is advisable to seek experienced legal representation from a Santa Barbara family law attorney that can help you get the results you deserve.
Call a Santa Barbara Family Law Attorney Now For Any Modification Needs
Any decision you make in a divorce or other family legal matters can affect you and the rest of your life in many different ways. At Drury Pullen Law, we are dedicated to ensure this difficult time in your life is handled with care and in your best interest. Give us a call at (805) 879 – 7523 to speak to a Santa Barbara family law attorney now.