Post-Judgment Modification and Enforcement
Your life continues and experiences changes even after the court finalizes your divorce or other family law case. At the conclusion of your case, the court issues a Final Judgment or an Order. When the other party disregards the terms of the Final Judgment or Order you may need to go back to court to have the judge enforce the Final Judgment or hold the other party in contempt of court. You have a right to make the legal system work for you and to ensure the other party follows the court order.
There may also come a time when the terms of the Final Judgment or Order no longer works or applies to the parties under new circumstances, often because the other party refuses to comply with the Order or simply because life changes. The Final Judgment may be modified upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. This is an extremely high burden to overcome and you need an experienced attorney on your side to advocate your interests to the court.
Modification of Alimony
Alimony/spousal support may be modified in the event of a substantial, material, permanent and unanticipated change in circumstances by either party. If the party receiving financial support has needs that have increased overtime, or the initial award was not sufficient to meet the needs of the receiving spouse at the time of the award, then a modification can be filed. Likewise, if the paying spouses income decreases, as a result of loss of income that was unanticipated and involuntary, the alimony may also decrease. Further, if the receiving spouse enters into a supportive relationship that benefits from the financial contribution of that relationship, then there is a basis for modification of the support obligation as well. However, not all forms of alimony can be modified and there are many factors the court must considered in determining whether or not alimony can be modified. Linda I. Braithwaite can help you determine whether or not your case qualifies for a modification.
Modification of Child Support
In these difficult economic times, it can be difficult to keep up with obligations. When child support payments become delinquent, the payor’s driver’s license may be suspended, wages may be garnished and tax returns may be intercepted and applied to any accumulated arrears. If you are unable to keep up with child support payments because you’ve lost your job or your salary has decreased, you must petition the court to modify child support to prevent these penalties.
Child support can be modified by either party in the event that there is a substantial change in circumstances in which the current child support guidelines differ from the previously established guidelines at least 15% or $50, whichever amount is greater. However this alone cannot be the sole basis for the modification. The judge may also grant a child support deviation in certain cases, given the specific factors as set forth in the statute governing child support. Our firm represents clients in both upward and downward child support modification cases and zealously argues to the court why a special deviation from the child support guidelines should be given based upon our client’s specific circumstances.
Modification of the Parenting Plan
Child custody (now called time-sharing and parenting plans under Florida law) can be modified upon showing that there is a substantial change in circumstances along with a showing that the proposed modification is in the best interest of the minor child(ren). The parenting plan is one of the most difficult areas of law to modify because the court places great emphasis on the stability of minor children. However, there are many circumstances in which a modification of custody is necessary or even urgent, especially when a child is in danger of physical or emotional abuse. Modification of the parenting plan may have a tremendous impact on the child if the child must change school districts or move away from friends and family and this is not a decision the judge takes lightly. There are several factors the court will consider in determining whether a modification of custody is in a child’s best interest and persuasive evidence must be presented to the judge to prove whether modification is appropriate. Linda I. Braithwaite, Esquire has your child’s best interest at heart and will zealously represent those interests on behalf of the you and/or your child.
Relocation of Minor Children
Upon a Final Judgment or any order being entered in a family law case, neither parent may not relocate more than 50 miles from the residence the parent and the child(ren) were living in at the time the Final Judgment or order was issued unless agreed to by the other parent or by obtaining an order from a court. Before moving more than 50 miles, the parent seeking to relocate must file a Petition to Relocate and a Supplemental Petition for Modification of the parenting plan and follow the specific procedures established in Florida law. Failure to do this may result in a Motion for Contempt, Motion for an Emergency Pickup Order of the minor child(ren) or a change in the parenting plan if the children are moved.
Prevailing in a relocation case can be difficult and Florida law requires the judge to consider and apply multiple factors. Linda I. Braithwaite, Esquire is experienced in advocating why time-sharing and/or relocation of a child should or should not be granted based upon the details of her clients’ cases and applicable Florida law.
Enforcement and Contempt
As with any order a court issues, the terms of the order or Final Judgment is legally binding on the parties. As such, the court has a variety of tools at its disposal which it can use to enforce its orders. Payments of alimony, child support, and attorney’s fees are subject to a Motion for Contempt, which requires the judge to find that the party whom the motion is against has willfully failed to comply with a Court order despite the fact that he/she has the ability to comply with the order. All other court orders that are not complied with are subject to a Motion for Enforcement. The Court has a variety of penalties at its disposal for both Contempt and Enforcement proceedings, including the award of sanctions (both monetary and non-monetary), the award of attorney’s fees and incarceration against the party that has failed to comply with the Order of the Court, depending on the circumstances.
Attorney’s fees may be assessed against a person who petitions for modification if a court finds that the modification proceeding was vexatious and was brought for purposes of harassment. Attorney’s fees may also be assessed if a party is found in contempt for violating a court order.