Modifying Family Law Orders

As life goes on, circumstances often change. This is especially true after a divorce. You might get a new job, have to take a pay cut, or suffer a layoff. Or, maybe your former spouse lands a promotion with a big raise. As circumstances change substantially, you have the right to petition the court for a modification of orders.


When might you need to modify a court order?

You may need to modify a court order to:

  • Change custody, visitation, or other aspects of a parenting plan (e.g., one parent plans to relocate, one parent is unable to care for the child for the time being, one parent is being deployed, etc.).
  • Increase or decrease child support (e.g., child contracted an illness and needs extensive medical care, parent lost job, etc.).
  • Increasing or decreasing alimony or spousal support (e.g., the paying party lost her job or received a demotion, the receiving party got a raise, etc.).
  • Terminating alimony or spousal support (e.g., the receiving party remarried).
  • A parent may also need to modify a court order if she feels that the other parent is putting the child or children in danger.

Why is it important to take the proper legal steps to modify an order?

While it is often tempting for former partners and current co-parents to make an oral agreement about a change, this is rarely a good idea. In our experience, handshake agreements simply do not work.

Instead, when there are substantial changes it is better to get it approved legally in order to ensure the agreement is enforceable later. While seeking approval in court can be a headache, there is no doubt that the end result is better for both you and your children. Without going through the proper channels, there is no legal protection available to you if your former partner breaks the oral agreement.

For example, if your original court order stated that you only see the children every three weeks, but you and your spouse agree, informally, that you get the kids every weekend, your spouse can change his mind later. To ensure that you protect your rights, you would need to petition for a modification of your visitation order.

How do I modify an order?

The court that issued the original order or award handles modification of the orders stemming from your divorce, custody orders, or child support orders. This court has “continuing jurisdiction” over these orders, allowing it to update them as necessary.

If you are considering requesting a modification of custody or support orders, a family law attorney at Petrelli Previtera can help. Do not attempt to do this alone. Filing for a modification is a difficult and often confusing process. We know the rules and procedures required under state law and can save you a lot of time and frustration.

Once you have filed all the right paperwork, the court will schedule a conference or hearing in the matter. In many cases, a conciliation conference is the first step in this process. This is much like the mediation sessions you may have attended before your divorce. When the modification deals with child custody or visitation, a Custody Conciliator directs this meeting. You, your attorney, your partner, and his attorney attend these meetings.

Note: If you are filing a modification for custody, you and your former spouse must attend a court-approved parenting program.

If you and your former partner can agree to the proposed changes in this meeting, there is no need to continue on to court. If no agreement is possible, the Conciliator or other appointed officer will recommend another conference or schedule a hearing before the judge.

Contact Our Lawyers for Assistance

If you need help modifying family law orders, the attorneys at Petrelli Previtera, LLC can help. We help individuals and families who need legal advice, practical guidance, or representation through the process of modifying court orders.

We can review an existing court order and advise you on whether your change in circumstance (such as income) warrants a modification. If there is significant change, our attorneys will walk you through the process of filing for a modification, and represent you in modification proceedings and court hearings.

Contact us at (866) 465-5395 to learn more about how we can help you to review an existing court order and advise you on applicable state laws for your modification.

Further Reading