Family Law | Modifications


Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Prescott, Arizona

Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Cottonwood, Arizona


Circumstances change and things don’t always go as planned.  Fortunately, Arizona law acknowledges that reality and, subject to certain conditions and exceptions, allows parties to go back to court and modify their custody, child support, and spousal maintenance orders. Whether, when and to what extent you can modify an order depends on a number of things such as the type of order you’re wanting to modify, how much time has elapsed since the order you’re wanting to modify was entered, and the circumstances and facts giving rise to your desired modification.

Generally, a custody order may not be modified until at least one year has passed since the order was entered.  There are exceptions to that general rule, such as cases in which there is reason to believe the child’s present environment may seriously endanger his or her physical, mental, moral or emotional health, cases where domestic violence or child abuse has occurred since the order was entered, or cases where one parent is not complying with the existing order.  Barring those exceptions, a party seeking to modify a custody order must wait one year to do so and must demonstrate the existence of a substantial and continuing change in circumstances in order to be successful.  What constitutes a substantial and continuing change in circumstances is fact specific.  A parent moving to a new town or starting a new job with new hours may be a substantial and continuing change in circumstances.  But a parent moving across town and starting a new job with similar hours may not be a substantial and continuing change in circumstances.  Timing is also a factor.

A substantial and continuing change in circumstances is also required to modify a child support order.  A modification of parenting time can be a substantial and continuing change in circumstances, so can a new job, a pay raise, a pay cut or a loss of employment.  However, a court is not likely to find a “substantial and continuing” change in circumstances where a parent only recently started a new job, lost his or her job, or only recently received a pay raise or pay cut.  Marriage or remarriage is not necessarily a substantial and continuing change in circumstances, either.  Your ex’s spouse is not required to support your children so even if your ex’s spouse is gazillionaire, that does not mean you get out of paying child support.

Spousal maintenance is modifiable unless the spousal maintenance order, which is typically found in the decree of divorce or legal separation, states that it is non-modifiable.  Often, when spouses resolve their divorce or legal separation by agreement, the decree (known as a Consent Decree) provides that spousal maintenance is non-modifiable.  That’s not always the case, but if spousal maintenance is non-modifiable, that is usually the product of an agreement and not a ruling by a judge after trial.  If spousal maintenance is modifiable, that does not mean that the person seeking to modify it is going to be successful.  That person would have to present evidence bearing on the statutory factors courts consider in determining whether and to what extent to award spousal maintenance in the first instance.

Like other family law cases, modifications can be difficult to navigate and a single misstep could result in long-term consequences.  Our Prescott and Cottonwood, Arizona family law attorney has helped numerous individuals just like yourself with custody, child support and spousal maintenance modifications.  Put our attentive, compassionate and trusted firm to work for you today by scheduling a consultation.

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