Ending a marriage is likely to change your life in many ways for years to come. In some instances, finalizing a divorce does not mean you will never interact with your ex again. Many divorce orders entail long-term agreements that all parties must follow, especially when they pertain to children. If you have a child support agreement with your ex-spouse, or if one of you pays alimony to the other, the terms of your ongoing agreement require careful attention.
However, unexpected issues might arise that prevent you from abiding by these terms indefinitely. If you have encountered any problems that interfere with your current child support or alimony agreement in Springfield, IL, it’s vital to know the legal options that can help you address the issue. The family court system of Illinois offers a modification process that allows any party involved in a family court order to petition for changes.
How Does Modification Work in Springfield, IL?
The modification process is a simplified alternative to an appeal. When you seek modification of an existing family court order, you are not challenging the legal basis of the original order. Instead, you are stating that recent events have made the current order untenable, and reasonable changes are necessary. Some of the most reported reasons for parties to seek modifications to child support and alimony orders in Illinois include:
- Job loss. If a party paying alimony and/or child support loses their job or experiences a significant decrease in income due to reasons beyond their control, they can request modified support terms. These terms are meant to reflect their financial situation more accurately. It’s important to note that if you are required to pay child support and/or alimony, you cannot simply quit your job and expect to be released from your financial obligations. You can potentially secure a temporary adjustment to your alimony and/or child support terms that will last until you find new employment, or your financial situation otherwise improves.
- Medical issues. If you pay child support and/or alimony and experience an unexpected medical issue that prevents you from meeting your obligations, you can request a change to the family court order in question to reflect your new circumstances. Similarly, if you discover that your child has a previously unknown medical issue, circumstances may warrant an increase in child support.
- Contempt. If any party beholden to a legal family court order violates the terms of the order intentionally, the other party has the right to file contempt proceedings. Contempt of court defines any willing refusal to follow a valid court order. For example, if your ex has refused to pay child support for an extended time, you can file contempt charges against them. Contempt of court can often lead to modification of the family court order in question.
- Changes in income. When one party in a family court order experiences a change in income, they must report it to the family court. Depending on the nature of the change and the terms of the family court order in question, this change in income could prompt modification proceedings. Adjusting the terms of the court order in question may be necessary considering the new circumstances.
There are many potential incidents that could prompt someone to request a modification to their family court order. If you have recently experienced any life event that influences your standing family court order, it’s best to consult a Springfield, IL family law attorney to start preparing for the modification process.
What Does Modification Require?
If you intend to have your family court order modified, the process is fairly straightforward. First, you must draft a petition that explains your desired change and the supporting evidence you can provide that shows the change is both necessary and reasonable. Your Springfield, IL family law attorney can assist you with drafting your petition and submitting any supplemental information you will need to provide. Once the court receives your petition for modification, a hearing date will be set by the court. All parties involved in the family court order will have the opportunity to speak regarding the issue.
During your hearing, the judge must carefully evaluate the current family court order and assess the changes you are requesting. If you have sufficient evidence to prove the desired change is both reasonable and necessary, they are likely to grant your request, and the modification can be implemented immediately. However, the other parties involved in your family court order have the right to offer contradictory evidence and testimony. They may claim your requested modification is unreasonable or unnecessary for a number of reasons. Your attorney will be an invaluable asset if you encounter any unexpected resistance to your desired modification.
Do I Always Need to Petition for Modification to Change My Alimony or Child Support Order?
You may not need to file a petition for modification if you encounter certain circumstances. If you have an alimony agreement, the terms of the agreement likely include terminating actions that end your alimony obligation or your right to receive further alimony payments. For example, your alimony agreement likely states that the agreement ends as soon as the recipient begins living with a new partner or remarries. As soon as this occurs, the paying spouse no longer needs to continue making alimony payments, and there is no reason to return to court to confirm the end of the agreement.
Similarly, child support orders include specific terms regarding when child support must end. Typically, child support payments are no longer required if the child dies, reaches the age of 18, or becomes legally emancipated. If the terms of your family court order dictate when specific changes must occur or when the order is no longer valid, there is no reason to file a petition for modification when the necessary events occur.
Modification proceedings are quite straightforward, but it is always easier to navigate family law matters when you have an experienced attorney on your side. If you believe you have grounds to request a modification to a standing alimony or child support order, contact a Springfield, IL family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.