Divorce decrees are only final in that they permanently dissolve the marriage. They do not permanently settle all ancillary issues. Even if you’ve negotiated a marital settlement agreement that you feel is comprehensive and perfectly suitable, your life, as well as your ex-spouse’s and your children’s, will change. When the changes are so substantial that your court order no longer fits your circumstances, you must either negotiate a new agreement or return to court to modify your terms. Of course, you could also find yourself in a situation where your current order suits your life fine, but your spouse wants to renegotiate terms. At the Van Den Heuvel Law Office, we help divorced clients assert their rights in actions for post-divorce modifications of decrees. Whether you’re seeking or resisting changes to your order, we provide knowledgeable counsel and reliable court representation to achieve your goals.
It is always better for spouses to work out their differences without resorting to a court hearing. However, there are dangers to operating under an informal agreement. Suppose an obligor spouse falls on hard economic times and informs the recipient spouse that it’s impossible at this time to make full alimony and child support payments. The recipient spouse understands the circumstances and agrees to a 30 percent reduction until things pick up. Since both parties agree, they don’t memorialize their agreement or take it to court for approval. Several months later, they have a falling out and the recipient spouse halls the obligor into court for nonpayment. The obligor is able to convince the court at that time to order a modification of 25 percent, but that only applies to future payments. The obligor is still on the hook for back payments even though the recipient had agreed to the reduction.
If you can work out new terms with your spouse (with or without an attorney), that’s terrific. But until you get a new court order implementing that agreement, you’re still bound by law to honor the old terms.
When parties must go to court for a modification, the petitioning party must show that there has been a substantial change of circumstances that necessitates a change. Circumstances that might justify a new child support or alimony order include:
In some states, alimony terminates automatically when a recipient spouse remarries, but this is not the law in Michigan. If you have any questions about how to seek or oppose a modification to your divorce order, see an experienced family law attorney.
During the process of going through a divorce involving children or in other child custody disputes, a parenting time order may be entered through the court, which provides a guideline for when, where, and how often you see your child. Under Michigan Parenting Time Guidelines, the court aims at establishing parenting time in a length and frequency that will promote a strong relationship between you and your child. At a minimum, parenting time should include the following:
Under Section 722.27a of the Michigan Child Custody Act, our family law attorney can request a modification of the parenting time order on the grounds that one of the parents is not receiving the amount of time with the child they are entitled to by the court, as well as in circumstances in which time spent with one of the parents is determined to not be in the best interests of the child. The court also allows a parenting time modification when other factors that relate to the existing order need to be more well defined, such as the following:
The court will then consider the parenting time factors set forth in MCL 722.27a(7) to determine the frequency, duration, and type of parenting time that should be granted. MCL 722.27a(7) has nine factors, and they are:
The court will also consider the best interest of the child and the 12 best interest factors, but may only focus on one of a few issues in those factors. However, if the parenting time modification request would result in a change of custody, it may not be granted unless the court finds the change would be in the best interest of the child.
The Van Den Heuvel Law Office negotiates post-divorce modifications and represents clients in court who are seeking or opposing new orders. If you have any questions regarding your rights in these matters, call our Grand Rapids office at 616-698-0000 or contact us online to schedule your initial consultation. We can also conduct your appointment via Skype.
To talk with our attorney about your legal concerns, contact the Van Den Heuvel Law Office by calling 616-698-0000. You may also complete our online contact form. After-hours consultations are available by appointment. We are also available on Skype by appointment.