We frequently see requests for post divorce decree action. The divorce finishes quickly, but the aftereffects linger for years or sometimes permanently. People have child related issues, and in the State of Florida, the court maintains its jurisdiction over the children until they’re 18 for parenting issues, and until they graduate high school for child support issues. These matters can be pending for many years if people get divorced with young children. Because of this, we see quite a few people coming in regarding child related issues, and to discuss modifications of those issues.
Additionally, I often see people because they’re seeking modifications to their alimony decree. In the state of Florida, we still have permanent alimony. Many people who receive alimony come in to enquire about increasing their alimony payments after a number of years and many people come to my office about lowering their alimony. In fact, this week I had three clients come in my office to discuss lowering or even terminating permanent alimony payments. Sometimes my office is busy with modifications of new divorces. For that reason, we actually try to make the alimony agreement as final as possible, but sometime we can’t. Usually, when there are children related issues, especially when there are sometimes payouts over a number of years, a good and experienced lawyer will try to finalize as many issues as possible, but sometimes you can’t do it to every single issue that may arise.
What Are Some Examples Of Issues That Can And Cannot Be Modified In A Divorce Decree?
Divisions of property and debts are generally not modifiable. That is the one issue that is generally not permitted unless there has been some fraud or a deliberate attempt to hide certain assets. The division of assets and debt, which in Florida we call Equitable Distribution, is not modifiable. The reasons most people come for modifications to their divorce decree is in relation to permanent or long-term alimony. When there is a change in someone’s financial situation, they’ll come in and seek a modification. If the receiving spouse asks for modification of alimony, it is generally in those situations where it was clear that the paying spouse did not have the ability to keep the receiving spouse in the lifestyle that he or she was accustomed to, at first. Later on, the paying spouse’s income increased, to the point where the receiving spouse seeks a modification to try to get all the alimony that he or she should have received, or would have liked to receive, except for the fact that the paying spouse didn’t have the ability at the time to pay the alimony that was necessary.
Frequently, the paying spouse will come in when his or her financial circumstances change, or even when the receiving spouse’s situation changes. For example, if the husband is paying alimony, he may come into my office five or six or, as happened yesterday, eight years after the divorce to say, “I stay in contact with my ex-spouse, and she is now earning 3 times what she was earning at the time of the divorce. What can I do, because she no longer seems to need my alimony, as she’s earning a lot more than she was when we divorced.”
The requirement for any kind of modification to the alimony payment is a permanent, substantial, and unanticipated change of circumstances. When it comes to an alimony payment, this could be because the receiving spouse’s income has gone up or down substantially, or the paying spouse’s income has gone up or down. Those are generally the grounds for a modification of an alimony or support award. This would also lead us to a child support modification, which is probably the most common type of modification. Generally, the child support is set at the income levels of the parents at the time of the divorce, but when you’re talking about young children, the child support again could go on for years. After a number of years, one or the other spouse’s income could have undergone a permanent, substantial, and unanticipated change of circumstances, which would lead one or both parties to seek a modification to adjust the child support, based on the current income of both parties.
The other time people come into the office for modification is for parenting modifications. In Florida, we don’t use words like custody or custody arrangements. We actually have in Florida what’s called the Parenting Plan, and the Parenting Plan talks about the rights and obligations of the parents, as well as the time-sharing schedules of children with the parents. Again, as children grow older, sometimes they need a schedule change, or one parent is just not acting in accordance with the best interest of the children.
Sometimes, parents’ situations totally change. Parents who are sober at the time of the divorce start abusing substances, drugs or alcohol, or there are other changes that may have occurred. When the change is something that is substantial, permanent, and unanticipated, and when it’s no longer in the best interests of the children to maintain the schedule that was agreed or ordered, parents will come and seek a modification of the parenting plan.
For more information on Post Decree Actions In A Divorce, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (954) 755-0126 today.