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As Life Changes--So Too May Some Custody And Support Orders

There's a saying that change is the one true constant in life. If you previously went through a divorce or settled a child custody case, you likely understand the significance of this saying all too well. The culmination of a divorce or child custody case triggers many significant changes including where you live, your standard of living, your retirement plans and how often you see your children.

After a divorce or child custody order is finalized and entered, many people wrongly assume that the order and its related provisions concerning spousal support, child support and parental responsibilities are forever set in stone. There are, however, circumstances under which the courts will agree to modify the terms of an existing order.

Modifying A Spousal Support Order

Depending on how a spousal support order was established it may or may not be modified. In general, alimony is automatically terminated upon either party's death or if the spouse who is receiving alimony remarries. Additionally, the amount of a spousal support order may be altered or the order terminated in cases where one spouse experiences a substantial and continued change that has a significant financial component-such as a disability.

Modifying A Child Support Order

Child support amounts are calculated by taking each parent's gross annual income and then looking at factors including shared physical care and custody, child care expenses and a child's medical and educational expenses.

A child support order terminates when a child reaches the age of emancipation. Additionally, the support amount may be modified if there are changes in parental time, one parent experiences significant and sustained changes that affect his or her income or there are changes in expenses related to a child's health or educational needs.

Modifying A Child Custody Order

When it comes to modifying an existing order related to parenting responsibilities (child custody and visitation), the courts always weigh a request against what is perceived to be in a child's best interests.

Circumstances that may warrant a change to parenting responsibilities include a child's wishes and changing needs, a parent's substance abuse issues, a parent's relocation and a child's or parent's disability.

Unless and until the courts approve the modification of an existing order, it's important to ensure that you fully comply with an order. If you believe that your life change warrants a change to a divorce or child custody order, it's important to contact an attorney.

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