After a divorce or parental separation, parties may create several court-approved or court-ordered legal guidelines, including the division of property, spousal support assignments, custody of children, and other parenting plan determinations. These orders must be followed. However, life can be unpredictable, and court orders can be modified to reflect changes in your circumstances. A Springfield modification attorney can help you determine if you can request modification.
When a couple’s divorce or separation is litigated, these orders are made and enforced by the court. When a couple uses mediation, they must submit the agreement through the court, making them court orders that are enforceable once approved. Certain aspects of divorce, including spousal support, child support, and child custody, can be modified through mutual agreement or through court petition.
Understanding a Substantial Change in Circumstance
When both parties who made the agreement wish to make a modification, they can draft a modification and submit it to the court for approval. Typically, the court will approve the modification if it is fair to both parties and in the interests of a child if that is relevant. Spouses cannot agree to a modification of property division, as that is finalized with the divorce. There are very specific circumstances that must occur for property division to be modified.
If parties do not agree on a modification to support or custody, the party who wishes to modify it must petition the court. There must be a relevant and substantial change in circumstances in order for the court to approve a modification. This may include relocation, change in financial resources, or the changing needs or health of a party or their children. A change in circumstance also includes information that was not considered during the initial court order.
Modifying Spousal Maintenance
Spousal support, called spousal maintenance in Illinois, can typically be modified if there is a good faith change in a party’s income or financial resources, and this change is significant. Significant financial changes may include:
- Increase or decrease in either party’s income or employment status
- The paid party has made efforts to become self-sustaining
- Changes to the medical needs of either party
- Either party has acquired or lost properties
- The paid party is living with another partner or is remarrying
If the spouse who is paying maintenance chooses to have their pay reduced or purposefully loses their job to decrease their payments, the court will not accept this and will likely not modify the order.
Modifying Child Support
Child support modifications are based on both the financial standings of each parent and the needs and interests of the child. A hearing for the modification of child support will be allowed if:
- There have been three years since the creation or last modification of support
- Either parent’s finances change significantly
- The support order did not provide for a child’s healthcare
- The Department of Child Support Services had a written review request submitted
At this hearing, a parent must then show that there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as a child’s increased financial needs, the emancipation of a child, or a change in child custody.
Modifying Parenting Plans
Modifications to a parenting plan do not require financial changes in circumstances. When modifying parenting time or visitation, the change must be in a child’s interests. If you wish to modify legal decision-making and child custody, there must be a significant change that has rendered this parenting plan not in the child’s interest. The court will not hear a modification within two years unless the child’s moral, mental, or physical health is in danger.
Q: Can a Marital Settlement Agreement Be Changed in Illinois?
A: In certain situations, aspects of a marital settlement agreement can be modified in Illinois. If both parties agree on a modification to the agreement, this change can be made and submitted to the court for its approval. The court will approve as long as the change is fair to both parties and in a child’s interests if that is relevant.
If parties do not agree on a modification, one party must petition the court for the modification and must prove that there has been a substantial and relevant change in circumstances in order to have grounds for potential modification.
Q: How Do You Modify Custody in Illinois?
A: In Illinois, family courts prefer not to modify child custody unless it is necessary, as this instability is considered not in a child’s interest.
If less than two years have passed since the court has created an order or modified it, the court will typically not grant a modification. During that period of time, the court will only modify the order if the child’s mental, moral, or physical health is in serious danger.
Outside of those two years, a modification must be made in the child’s interests or reflect a change that has been in place for six months already.
Q: At What Age Can a Child Refuse to See a Parent in Illinois?
A: A child can only make legal choices for their own residence once they are 18. Before that age, a child cannot refuse to see or live with a parent when custody is assigned due to a court order. The court takes a child’s opinion into account when determining a custody arrangement, but the court’s priority is still the child’s interests. If a child’s wishes conflict with their interests, the court is not required to listen to their opinions. The closer a child is to the age of 18, the more weight a court is likely to give their wishes.
Q: What Is a Substantial Change in Circumstances for Custody in Illinois?
A: A substantial change in circumstances is enough reason to modify a child custody order if it has been at least two years since the creation of the order or the last modification. For custody, a substantial change in circumstance includes:
- The relocation of one or both parents
- The remarriage of one or both parents
- A parent’s inability to provide for their child’s basic needs
If the modification is done to legally reflect a change parents have already been observing for six months or is a minor change, the court may also allow it.
Modifying Your Family Court Orders in Springfield
It can be complex to understand modification requirements and the process of filing and advocating for your family’s needs. The experienced attorneys at Stange Law Firm can help. Contact us today.