Can I Modify?

Can I Modify?

Like most family law attorneys a large percentage of my practice deals with post judgment matters like contempt and modification of existing final judgments. Since our economy has been in a tailspin for the past year or so I have seen an increase in post judgment matters due to some individuals losing their job and therefore being unable to pay their alimony or child support.

If there is an existing court order (final judgment) requiring a former spouse to pay either child support or alimony, that obligation continues until such time as there is a subsequent court order giving the payer relief. I see so many instances where an individual loses his/her job and because of that occurrence he/she feels he/she is relieved of their financial obligations. In order to get relief a Petition for Modification must be filed with the court. Until such time as a petition is filed, any money not paid is considered to be vested in the receiving former spouse and therefore it is owed.

When can a party file a Petition to Modify? The law allows such a pleading when there is an involuntary substantial change of circumstance of a permanent nature which was not anticipated at the time of the final judgment. This presents the question of what is considered permanent. If an individual loses his/her job and is receiving unemployment compensation while searching for new employment, will this meet the definition of permanent? There is no definite answer, since each case is different. Judges have the legal justification to temporarily reduce or even suspend alimony or child support payments for a reasonable period of time to determine if the paying spouse will be able to obtain new employment and if so, how much will the new salary be? In this present economy, many high level executives who were earning six figures find themselves collecting unemployment. There is no guarantee that they will ever obtain a job with the same income, especially if they are in their 50′s. Over time this would be considered a permanent change and would require at the very least a reduction in their obligations.

The most important thing to remember is that a modification will only take place if a petition is filed. Without the filing of this pleading your obligation will continue from month to month, regardless of your financial ability to pay.

For assistance in filing a Petition for Modification with the court to reduce or relieve child support or alimony payments, contact the Law Firm of Evan H. Baron at 954-385-9160. Our family law attorneys ensure the application process is correctly followed in Weston, Pembroke Pines and all of Broward County.