Modification Lawyers in Orlando Reviewing Court Orders for Necessary Changes
When two people are in a relationship, they generally make important decisions together. Things like where the children should go to school or who should be their doctor are discussed and decided jointly. Financial decisions and future plans are made together. But when a couple divorces, that’s no longer the case. At that point, the family court system is involved, and those decisions become legally binding court orders. Court orders say which parent gets to pick the daycare, who spends time with the children when, and how property will be divided in a divorce.
Every effort is made for court orders to be comprehensive to ensure there are no gray areas or room for confusion, but sometimes, these orders need to be changed later on. Modifications are a common occurrence, and it’s important to understand how this legal process works and why you may need to take advantage of it.
A court order is a legally enforceable document, which means you can be held in contempt and face other repercussions if you don’t follow it. But if a court order is no longer in line with your current situation or serving the best interests of your children, it could be time to consider a modification. Contact The Law Office of Erin Morse to find out how this process works and to get started.
What Is a Modification in Family Law?
Family law involves many court orders. There are divorce decrees, child custody orders, and child support orders. While some of these, like divorce decrees, are permanent and unchanging, others can be modified later on if necessary. This is most common with child custody and child support orders.
In a modification, at least one party petitions the court, requesting that a standing court order be changed in some way. If the parties are in disagreement, the judge will hear arguments from both sides before making a decision on whether to modify the order. If the judge agrees that a modification is warranted, a new order will be put in place that supersedes the old one.
When Can a Court Order Be Modified?
Theoretically, a court order can be modified at any time. However, judges don’t like to see parents arguing over things or bringing every small matter to court. So, in general, court orders should be modified only when there is a compelling reason to do so. For example, if a court order for shared parenting has been in place for a month, a judge is unlikely to grant a modification for sole custody unless there have been extreme circumstances.
Child support orders can be reviewed for modification every 3 years in Florida without any exigent circumstances. This helps ensure that the order is reflective of the current circumstances and is adjusted for cost of living increases or salary changes.
Can Both Parents Agree to a Modification Without Going to Court?
The best case scenario after a divorce is that the parents are able to work together in coparenting and make decisions jointly. In these cases, the parents can agree to a modification to a court order and then just ask the courts to make it legal. Any modification does need to be formalized through the courts to ensure it’s enforceable if necessary later on. Consider this scenario.
Both parents agree to move from a 2-2-5 schedule to alternating weeks. Since they’re in agreement, they don’t go through the courts to have the modification made official in a court order. After a few months, one parent wants to revert to the 2-2-5 schedule, but the other doesn’t. The parents’ agreement to alternate weeks would not be enforceable by a judge because it was never part of an official court order.
If a parent wants a modification but the other parent doesn’t agree, the parent requesting the modification will need to file a motion for modification. A hearing will be scheduled where both parents can provide testimony as to why the modification should — or shouldn’t — be put into place.
Can a Court Order Be Modified Because One Person Isn’t Following It?
It’s common for court orders to be modified as a result of one parent not following the terms. Child custody is a frequent example. Many parents start off with shared parenting. If one parent is consistently not following the parenting time plan by refusing to return the children on time or failing to show up for pickup, the judge may modify the order to sole custody.
Not following a court order is never a good idea, unless doing so would cause direct harm to your children. If you fail to follow a court order, you could be found in contempt, which can result in major consequences, up to and including jail time.
How Do You Request a Modification to a Court Order?
To request a modification to a court order, you will need to file a motion in the court system where the original order was made. For most people in Orlando, that’s the Orange County Family Court. The motion should include which order you want to modify, what modification you want to make, and why. The last part is especially important, as you will need to present evidence that shows the modification is warranted.
The first step in seeking a modification to a court order is to contact a Florida family law attorney. At The Law Office of Erin Morse, we have extensive experience helping clients request — and win — court order modifications. Call our office today at 407-900-7451 to get connected to a member of our team and find out what your next steps should be.