Yes, in many cases a child support, visitation or spousal support order can be modified and a family lawyer in the Phoenix area can explain all of your options to do so. Your children may be getting older, you may be moving to another state, or perhaps you want to get remarried. It is not a simple process, especially if an existing order has been finalized by the court, but you can seek to modify an existing court order in certain circumstances. The most common order modifications that are sought include:
- Child support
- Spousal maintenance
- Parenting time and child custody
Just like the initial support or visitation determination, seeking a modification can be a daunting and a qualified family attorney can explain your options and help you work through any issues that arise.
My income has decreased. What is required to reduce my child support obligations?
If you are the non-custodial parent and are paying child support, you may seek an order of modification in certain limited circumstances. There are two types of child support modification:
- Standard Modification: may be sought where your circumstances have changed in a “substantial and continuing manner” such that you cannot pay as much anymore.
- Simplified Modification: where circumstances have changed such that the new child support amount would be at least 15% higher or lower than the original court ordered amount.
Typically an income or custody change will be sufficiently “substantial” to support a modification of child support. It is important to consult with a family attorney when circumstances change to be sure that you are not paying more than necessary or subjecting yourself to liability for arrearages.
What are the requirements to modify a child custody order?
Under Arizona Revised Statute 25-403 there is a long list of factors that the family judge will analyze in determining if a change in child custody is in the best interest of the child. The court must consider any and all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being, including:
- The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
- The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.
- If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. If you seem likely to deny the other parent access to the children, it can hurt your case.
- Whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent. Using a family law attorney can help you avoid any pitfalls and harm to your case.
- Whether there has been domestic violence, child abuse or neglect.
By law the court is required to make specific findings about every factor used in determining how the custody agreement is to be modified. It is permissible for the court to determine that a modification should be denied based on factors different than outlined above so long as it is in the child’s best interest. These decisions are based largely on in-court testimony and arguments. A qualified family attorney who has experience in local courtrooms of the Phoenix and Scottsdale area will be able to craft the most effective arguments based on your particular circumstances.
How do I modify spousal support obligations in Arizona?
First of all, not every spousal maintenance agreement is modifiable. If you are unsure whether a modification is possible, you should contact legal counsel who can review the order and answer any questions you have.
Arizona law only allows spousal maintenance modifications where there has been a showing of a substantial and continuing change in circumstances.
- For example, a permanent loss of employment and income will likely be substantial enough if it is for an extended length of time. A one or two week layoff may be substantial but may not lengthy enough for the court to justify reducing your spousal maintenance obligations if you go back to work and start making money again.
- Another example of a substantial and continuing change in circumstances could be the loss or modification of health insurance. Health insurance is a major expense for many people. Depending on individual circumstances and large scale changes in health insurance at the state and federal level, health care costs can change drastically and may warrant modification of a spousal maintenance order.
It is also important to note that any alimony arrearages that exist before the motion to modify has been filed will not be included in the modification and you will still owe that amount. Arizona Revised Statute 25-327.
How can we modify a visitation or parenting time order?
Visitation modification is one of the most common modifications sought in family court because of the simple fact that lives change. Children get older, they switch schools, and at some point they will be old enough to take part in choosing where they will be the most comfortable and happy. Likewise, if one parent becomes incapacitated because of health issues or addiction, it will be in the child’s best interest to be sheltered from that parent’s problems.
Regardless of your situation, once the court is involved, it will act in what it perceives to be the best interest of the child. Your children’s well being is critically important, as is your right to receive maintenance payments that you are entitled to. You should hire a family attorney who understands the local courts and how they apply the law. Judd Nemiro knows how to fight for your rights. Call his office today for a consultation!