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Although divorce decrees are considered to be permanent, courts also recognize that a family’s circumstances could change significantly down the road as children age and the parties relocate or obtain new employment. For this reason, family law courts are permitted to modify a child custody arrangement or spousal maintenance award at a later date, but only if certain requirements are met. Demonstrating that a party’s circumstances have changed enough to warrant a modification can be difficult, so if you no longer believe that your current custody, child support, or alimony agreement is in your child’s best interests, it is critical to speak with an experienced Dutchess County divorce modification lawyer who can help find a solution that is best for you and your family.

Custody Modification

Generally, courts are reluctant to modify custody arrangements, if only because they are wary of the effects that such a drastic change could have on the parties’ children. However, courts are willing to approve a modification when a parent can prove that his or her circumstances have substantially changed. Even after a court finds that a change in circumstances has occurred, it will only grant a modification if doing so would be in the child’s best interests, which requires a review of a number of different factors, including:

  • The parenting skills of each parent;
  • Each parent’s ability to provide for their child’s special needs;
  • The mental and physical health of the parents;
  • Whether there is a history of domestic violence in the family;
  • The work schedules of each parent;
  • Which parent has historically been the child’s main caregiver;
  • The child’s relationship with siblings and other members of his or her extended family;
  • The child’s preference, if he or she is deemed to be mature enough to provide a reasoned argument;
  • Each parent’s ability to cooperate with the other parent; and
  • Each parent’s eagerness to encourage the child’s connection to the other parent.

Ultimately, a court will only modify a child custody order if an analysis of these elements indicates that doing so would be in the best interests of the child’s emotional and physical health.

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Child Support/Alimony Modification

Similarly, child support and alimony orders can also only be changed when a petitioner can prove that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred. In most cases, the request is made for one of the following reasons:

  • The noncustodial parent has become unemployed or experienced a reduced income through no fault of his or her own;
  • The noncustodial parent obtained primary custody of the child; or
  • The child is emancipated.

Even when petitioners are unable to establish that their circumstances have changed substantially, they may still be able to receive a modification if:

  • Three years have passed since the order was entered or last modified; or
  • The gross income of one of the parties has changed by 15 percent or more since the order was entered.

Unfortunately, these options are not available to those whose orders were entered into before October 13, 2010 or to parties who specifically opted out in a validly executed agreement.

Call an Experienced Dutchess County Divorce Modification Lawyer Today

If you believe that your current child custody, child support, or alimony arrangement is no longer appropriate for your situation, please contact one of the dedicated divorce attorneys at The Colwell Law Group, LLC by calling 518-312-4058 or texting us at 518-730-7028.

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