From medical bills to loss of income, a variety of changing circumstances can make it all but impossible for you or your spouse to abide by the original terms of your divorce settlement. Change is possible, but it’s not easy. Keep the following considerations in mind as you seek to modify your divorce settlement:
Child and Spousal Support
Unfortunately, you cannot adjust child support payments within three years of your order or last modification, unless special circumstances exist. If eligible, the process begins when you or your attorney files a Request for Review and Adjustment with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Social Services. The request must detail special circumstances that qualify you for modification, along with evidence proving your need for adjustment. Examples may include:
Insurance carrier statements indicating premium increases of at least 25 percent
Income increases or decreases of at least 25 percent
Significant changes in work-related childcare expenses
For spousal support modifications, the Virginia Code’s Section 20-109 grants the court significant discretion to increase, decrease or terminate current payments. To qualify, you may need to demonstrate substantial changes to your financial circumstances. Your ability to obtain modification could also hinge on language in your original decree, which may guide options for altering your support agreement.
Child Custody and Visitation
If you and your spouse agree on the proposed terms of custody or visitation modification, you can develop a stipulated agreement (also known as a modified agreement) without the court’s approval. If, however, your ex later disregards this modification, it may be impossible to enforce. If your ex disagrees about the need for modification, you can file a motion requesting desired adjustments. As with child and spousal support modifications, you must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances. Examples include:
A geographic move that might harm the child’s stability and wellbeing
Lifestyle changes such as drug use or working night shifts
Health issues that render the custodial parent incapable of providing sole physical care
Ultimately, ease of modifying your divorce decree depends on your ex’s cooperation (or lack thereof) and whether courts deem your situation substantially altered. Expect to file extensive paperwork and to wait months, even years before you obtain modification eligibility.