If you are going through a divorce or custody battle, you might wonder whether what the judge says is the end-all-be-all when it comes to your case. In many cases, the answer is yes, but in some instances, the answer is no. Read on to find out whether you can have the terms of your divorce or custody arrangement changed and how to go about doing so.
Somewhat early in the divorce proceedings, it’s likely that a judge will need to make a temporary order. If you and your ex are not able to come to mutually agreeable decisions in terms of the house, other property you co-own, and the children, a judge will make a temporary order.
By its very nature and name, a temporary order is just that: temporary. The spouse who is allowed to stay in the house might not end up living there once the divorce is final. The spouse who had primary custody of the children might not end up having primary custody once the custody arrangements are finalized. This is just a temporary solution to the question of, “who gets the house/kids?”
In some cases, what the judge decides will come to fruition, and in other cases, it will not. It is in your best interest to heed the direction given by the temporary order unless there is some serious and extenuating circumstance (such as an allegation of abuse). In this case, you would need to get the permission of the appellate court to hear your case for modifying these temporary orders. You might not be happy with the arrangement, but it could very well change once the case is settled.
The Appeals Process
Once your divorce case has been settled and custody arrangements made, a formal appeal is possible if you feel that a mistake has been made. Keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to the feeling that the judge should have seen things your way or because you didn’t like the judgment; it only applies if you believe there has been an error in interpreting or applying the law.
The appeals process needs to be started within 30 or 60 days of the orders, depending on your state’s law. You will need to file documents such as transcripts of the hearings, a written explanation of the basis of your appeal, and other information about the case. You’ll also need to provide your ex-spouse a copy of this documentation. A law advocacy group like Family Law Legal Group can help you determine whether an appeal is appropriate and how to go about the process.
Modifying a Child Support Agreement
If you have been awarded child support or ordered to pay child support, there are some circumstances that might necessitate modifying the agreement. For example, if you have been ordered to pay and you’ve lost your job or been diagnosed with a health condition that will cause you to rack up a lot of medical debt, a judge might agree to lower the amount that you must pay. You will need to file a motion to amend the child support amount.
It is important to keep in mind that the child support you pay goes directly toward supporting your child. For this reason, many judges are reluctant to reduce the amount that you have to pay, particularly if there is not a clear reason that you would not be able to make up whatever income you are losing (from a job loss, for example). Also, keep in mind that each state determines the correct amount of child support a bit differently, so your circumstances might not necessitate a reduction in your obligation.
Your legal advocacy group will be able to help you file the correct paperwork to request an amendment to your child support orders. You will need to gather evidence of your changed financial situation and file your petition. While you are waiting for an answer, it is important that you continue to make your payments as ordered so you do not become held in contempt of court. If your ex-spouse agrees that you can temporarily stop making child support payments, get the agreement in writing and talk to your legal advocate for further advice.
What If Your Ex-Spouse Does Not Cooperate?
If your ex is not following the orders of the judge when it comes to child support or visitation, you might need to go back to court. Before jumping to that action, however, try simply talking to your ex-spouse. Was there a miscommunication? Do you need to go to mediation to have the terms of the custody arrangement explained to each of you? Was there a temporary issue preventing him or her from allowing you to take the children (one of them was sick, for example, or your ex’s vehicle broke down and he or she was unable to transport them to you)? Sometimes these issues can be worked out without going back to court. If that doesn’t work, then you might need to file a motion to have your case heard by a judge.
What you cannot do, however, is change the terms of the divorce or child support order. Even though your ex is the one breaking their side of the deal, you still have to uphold yours. Your child support order is still in effect and is not changed simply because your child’s other parent is not following the judge’s orders.
Again, your advocacy group will be in a good position to help you file the documents needed for the court to enforce the orders.
Getting the Best Settlement
Keep in mind that the best way to end up with a final court decision that you don’t need to appeal or modify is to get the best settlement possible in the first place. Family Law Legal Group can help you get the settlement and child custody arrangement that is best for your family. We work with mothers and fathers to do what is in the best interest of the children involved. Contact us to learn whether we can help you with your divorce or child custody case.