Family Law


Family Law

Grand Rapids Family Lawyer Assists with Post-Divorce Modifications

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.

Do Not Rely On Informal Agreements to Modify Child or Spousal Support

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.

Showing a Substantial Change of Circumstances

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:

  • Obligor’s unemployment
  • Recipient’s cohabitation or remarriage
  • Onset of child’s special needs
  • Poor health of either spouse

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.

Your Rights to Parenting Time

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:

  • Alternating weekend parenting time, which runs from 6:00 p.m. Friday to 6:00 p.m. Sunday.
  • Weekday parenting time, set to occur from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on an evening agreed upon by both parties. In the event an agreement cannot be reached, the visitation will occur on Wednesdays.
  • Holiday parenting time, in which holidays are divided fairly between both parents based on the parents being given the rights to specific holidays on even or odd-numbered years.
  • Spring, summer, and winter vacation parenting time, again based on rights assigned to each parent based on even or odd number years.

Requesting a Parenting Time Modification

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 division of responsibility in terms of arranging transportation for the child to visitations;
  • Restrictions on the presence of third parties during parenting time;
  • Requirements for providing notice when parenting time is canceled or will not occur for any reason;
  • Specific instructions on having the child ready for parenting time, as well as instructions for when the child should be picked up or dropped off with the other parent.  

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 existence of any special circumstances or needs of the child.
  • Whether the child is a nursing child less than 6 months of age, or less than 1 year of age if the child receives substantial nutrition through nursing.
  • The reasonable likelihood of abuse or neglect of the child during parenting time.
  • The reasonable likelihood of abuse of a parent resulting from the exercise of parenting time.
  • The inconvenience to, and burdensome impact or effect on, the child of traveling for purposes of parenting time.
  • Whether a parent can reasonably be expected to exercise parenting time in accordance with the court order.
  • Whether a parent has frequently failed to exercise reasonable parenting time.
  • The threatened or actual detention of the child with the intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent or from a third person who has legal custody. A custodial parent’s temporary residence with the child in a domestic violence shelter shall not be construed as evidence of the custodial parent’s intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent.
  • Any other relevant factors.

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.

Contact Our Family Law Firm in Grand Rapids for Post-Divorce Modification

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.

Contact a Knowledgeable Grand Rapids Attorney

For An Initial Consultation

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.

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