Divorce decrees and child support orders are supposed to be long-lasting contracts that affect your finances for years to come. However, even the best-written contract can’t predict the future. There are many situations when your original court order may no longer serve your family’s needs.
In these circumstances, you may be able to request a post-judgment modification from the court. These modifications allow you to update orders to reflect your current financial needs, but only in specific circumstances. Here’s what you need to know about Florida post-judgment modifications and how to prove you’re eligible to have an order changed.
What Is a Post-Judgment Modification?
A post-judgment modification is an official legal change to a court order that has already been issued. These modifications are relatively common in family law, as they permit families to alter orders that would otherwise pose financial hardships.
There are many reasons why an order may no longer serve you. One of the most common reasons to request a modified order is the loss of a job. If you have been ordered to pay support, the amount required by the order is based on your income when it was issued. If you are unexpectedly laid off or become disabled and unable to work, you may no longer be able to pay the amount ordered. The original order becomes a financial hardship.
Support orders are not intended to be punishments or undue burdens on anyone involved. When they become hardships, Florida law permits either party to request that they be changed to fit the new circumstances.
A petition for modification is not taken lightly by the courts, though. Family law orders, including divorce decrees, spousal support orders, and child custody and support orders, are intended to be permanent. Before they are issued, judges consider potential future events and ensure that the order will not harm anyone involved. As such, you can only request that an order be modified in specific circumstances.
When May Post-Judgment Modifications Be Issued?
Florida law imposes strict regulations on requesting post-judgment modifications to reduce the burden on the judicial system. Crucially, modifications are only permitted if there is a significant change to your circumstances that makes the original order an undue burden.
This makes sense when you consider the supposedly permanent nature of these orders. They are designed to last for years, considering all parties’ needs. If there isn’t a significant change to your circumstances, there is no new information to consider, and a new order would closely resemble the old one. As such, Florida bars modifications unless the petitioner can prove there has been a material, substantial, and unanticipated change to their situation.
According to state law, all three of these criteria must be proven before a petition for modification will be granted. You must be able to demonstrate the change to your circumstances was:
- Material: The change must be relevant to the situation at hand. For example, a stock market crash could significantly impact your retirement funds. However, the crash does not materially affect your ability to pay child support if you retain your job and salary. However, if you relied on dividends for a significant fraction of your monthly income, the crash may materially impact your ability to pay any support.
- Substantial: Changes need to be considerable to warrant altering orders. If you make six figures a year, receiving a three percent salary cut is unlikely to be considered substantial. However, having your hours and annual salary cut in half is likely to be substantial.
- Unanticipated: If you choose to quit your job without having a new one lined up after an order is issued, that is a change you anticipated. You cannot have orders changed because of these types of choices. However, getting fired or laid off is usually considered an unanticipated change.
If you can prove that all three of these factors are present in your case, you are more likely to have your request for a modification granted.
How to Prove Your Eligibility for a Post-Judgment Modification
Determining who is eligible for a modification is a more complex process than you may realize. If you are the party requesting the change, you are responsible for proving your eligibility for modifications. To confirm your eligibility, you should take the following steps:
- Collect financial documentation: You will need evidence that the change to your circumstances was material and substantial. Depending on the reason for your petition, documents to collect include paystubs, credit card bills, rent or mortgage papers, and medical bills.
- Gather proof that the change was unexpected: In some cases, you may also want to prove that you did not cause changes on purpose. For example, if you were fired from your employer, save a copy of the message informing you that you were terminated. This prevents arguments that you intentionally changed your circumstances to reduce the support you need to play.
- Work with an attorney: A petition for a modification is a complex process. Working with an experienced family law attorney is worthwhile to ensure your petition is comprehensive and accurate.
Request Modifications With Experienced Family Law Counsel
You shouldn’t be subject to a support order you can no longer afford. If your circumstances have changed, you can petition for a post-judgment modification that accounts for your new circumstances. At The Hache Law Firm P.A., we have years of experience representing clients when modifying divorce orders or changing child support orders. We understand Florida’s laws and requirements regarding these petitions, and we can guide you through the process. Get in touch with our Coral Gables family law firm today to discuss your needs and discover how we can assist you.