Modifications of Custody,xxxxxxxx
Child Support & Alimonyxxxxxxxx

All issues regarding the children in a divorce are always subject to modification, or change, until the children reach the age of majority (age 19). This includes child custody, child support, health insurance coverage, etc.

Custody Modification
Changes in custody after a Decree has been entered are difficult and should not be undertaken lightly. This is because the Court wants to maintain a stable environment for children and they do not want a "running gun battle," with the parents constantly fighting over the children.

More Difficult Standard
As far as custody is concerned at the time of the divorce, the Court's determination is based on "what is in the best interests of the children." However, for a modification of custody at a later date, the standard is supposed to be: "Has there been a change of circumstances since the time of the entry of the Decree (or the last Order of the Court whichever is later) which was unforeseen by the parents and which now makes it in the best interests of the children that their custody should be changed." This is a much more difficult standard and the Court will generally not change custody unless there has been a significant change of circumstances.

Examples of such changes would be if the custodial parent is providing an unsuitable home for the children, for example with drug use or excessive use of alcohol; the relationship between the custodial parent and the children has seriously deteriorated (for example to the point where the child does not obey the custodial parent or is running away). Again, in order to have custody changed, this must be much more serious than just that the child is not getting along well with the parent.

Child Support
Child support can be either increased or decreased depending on the circumstances of the parties. The increase or decrease will depend upon whether or not there has been a change in the income of either party which will result in a child support change of at least 10% and the change is expected to last for at least 6 months.

The child support increase or decrease will be determined by the Child Support Guidelines. It is important to note that the change can only occur if the necessary documents are filed in Court and approved by the judge. Every month that goes by without filing the papers, the child support amount stays the same and accrues.

As an example of this, if you and your former spouse agree that the child will come to live with you for a few months, you must file the necessary documents that month, or you will owe the child support. Also, even if your former spouse gets a big raise that starts in May, if you don't file until September, the Court does not have the authority to go back to May when the new income actually started. The Court only has the authority to reduce or increase the support based on when the proper documentation was filed with the Court.

Essentially the same rules used to determine increases or decreases of child support apply to alimony. If there has been a substantial increase or decrease in the incomes of either party, the Court has the authority to increase or decrease the alimony.

Remember that if the original Decree does not award any alimony, neither party can come back later to request alimony.

Also, the statute says that the paying party must be current on all alimony payments before they can file to have the alimony reduced. This is important to remember if you have lost your job or had a substantial pay cut. File now, don't wait for six months when you're already behind on your alimony payments.

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