Hi everyone. My name is Beth Miller, and I am the newest addition to Thompson, Crawford & Smiley. I am an attorney that works in our family law section. I wanted to remind everyone that we are here for you to help navigate you through any family law matter that you may need assistance with. Divorce, custody disputes, child support, establishment of paternity, domestic violence injunctions, prenuptial agreements, adoptions – these are just some of the issues that we handle on a daily basis. Particularly, I wanted to spotlight two separate types of actions that you might want to consider that may fit your needs – Enforcement and Modification.
Enforcement – Motions for Enforcement come into play when you have a Final Judgment or a Settlement Agreement that lays out specific terms and the other person involved in the matter is not abiding by one or more of those terms. You bring this type of action seeking a Court order to have the term(s) enforced (i.e. ordering the other person to comply with the terms). Most often you see these types of motions used in situations such as a person not paying their child support or alimony or not making required payments according to the established payment schedule, or a person not following the established parenting plan by unilaterally deviating from the plan or refusing to allow (or even threatening to refuse to allow) the other person access to their shared child(ren). While these are the most common scenarios, these types of motions can be used to enforce any term in effect that is not being complied with. When bringing motions for enforcement, you may also be able to have the noncompliant person held in contempt and/or made to pay your attorney’s fees.
Modification – Supplemental Petitions for Modification are used when you have a Final Judgment or a Settlement Agreement that lays out specific terms and you are seeking to change one or more of the terms. The standard that must be met in order for the Court to even consider such change(s) is whether there has been a substantial, material, and unforeseeable change in circumstances. If you can prove such a change, you may be well on your way to having the Court agree with your request for modification. While this sounds like a high burden (which it can be), this is a mechanism that allows for flexibility should significant change occur in people’s lives, as it often and inevitably does. Take, for instance, alimony. If you were divorced and ordered to pay a specific amount of alimony to your ex-spouse and then you at some point later lose your job or have a decrease in salary, you can seek modification of the alimony provision based on these types of changes. The same goes for if you are the former spouse who was ordered to receive alimony and you find out that your ex-spouse received a raise and/or you have had medical issues which have caused you to incur added expenses. In this scenario, you could petition for modification based on your ex-spouse’s increased ability to pay and/or your increased needs. Modification is often also sought in relation to parenting plans (parental responsibility, timesharing, and/or child support). This can be for monetary reasons (e.g. increase or decrease in salary, increase in child-related expenses such as daycare or health insurance), or for a variety of other reasons. As always, when children are involved, the best interests of the child(ren) is one of the guiding standards. As such, you may want to consider requesting modification if a parent is exhibiting signs of substance abuse or mental health issues, or if a parent is consistently and unilaterally failing to exercise their timesharing with their child(ren).
So remember, if you find yourself in a situation where a term or terms of your family law Final Judgment or Agreement are not being complied with by the other person or if term(s) of your Final Judgment or Agreement need to be changed, you can bring the matter(s) back before the Court to be addressed. If you have questions about a family law Enforcement or Modification matter or any other type of family law issue, our team is here to help! Give us a call at 850-386-5777.