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When a judgement is issued, it’s a snapshot in time. It makes sense for the circumstances as they exist that day. Yes, provisions are made for the future – for things like educational expenses – but they are overwhelmingly for the expected. Life, though, doesn’t work that way. The only constant in life is that things change.

No one, in fact, can count on most things in their life staying the same over years. It’s unrealistic to expect that divorce, custody, alimony, and other family law decrees and agreements are somehow immune to change.

People, circumstances, jobs, health, children and their needs, can and do change. Sometimes it takes time, sometimes with little to no warning. Sometimes, people make choices that negatively affect others. People lose jobs. Educational needs change. People move for a myriad of reasons. People get sick.  Some people refuse to abide by the agreements. The list of changes that may affect the intent of the original decree and agreements is endless.

Thankfully, it is sometimes possible to adjust judgements, orders, decisions, and agreements to reflect those changes.

Courts will entertain motions to ‘fix’ existing orders and agreements when circumstances warrant. It’s hardly automatic and it’s not easy, but it can be done by presenting the Court with convincing evidence that there have been substantial changes in circumstances and a modification is appropriate and needed.

Of course, you and your ex can agree on changes before turning to the court and make the process much simpler. If that isn’t possible, it may be time to file a motion.

A young mother embraces her daughter as they laugh

Motion for contempt/compel

Somewhere, sometime, your ex refuses to follow the terms of the divorce as ordered by the court.

Depending on the type of document that resolved your case, you may ask the Court to hold them in contempt and make [compel] them to obey the order.

The goal of a motion is simple: to put you back to where you would have been had the other person done what they were supposed to do.

There are more motions and various combinations of the ones above. What’s important is to understand that you do not have to ‘take it’ when your ex is not doing what they are supposed to do, what they agreed to do.

Petition to Modify

A Petition to Modify is what it sounds like: asking the court to change some element(s) of a divorce order. You may need a modification of child support if, for example, you lose a job, get a new job, or experience a significant life change. Modification may also be used to tweak a parenting plan or custody agreement to accommodate your child’s needs as circumstances change.​

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