Making Changes to a New York Divorce Agreement or Judgement 

Life doesn’t always work out the way we planned it. Just like you didn’t plan on divorce when you married, you may not have planned on later life changes when you divorced.

At the time of divorce, whether in the context of litigation, collaborative law or mediation, spouses typically enter a comprehensive settlement in the form of a written agreement.  Even in litigation, it is said that less than 5% of the cases actually go to trial, and instead end with a written agreement.  This agreement covers many topics generally including:

  • Division of assets and debts
  • Child custody and custodial access (visitation)
  • Child support
  • Spousal maintenance (alimony)

This agreement is created by people who cannot possibly foresee exactly where life will bring them or how their needs or the needs of their children will change.

In cases where the parties cannot reach an agreement, the judge, after a trial, dictates the terms of the divorce in a judgement. The judge, who rarely knows much about the family involved, will be ill-equipped to foresee the challenges and changes that will occur in the lives of the divorcing couple over time.

For these reasons, it is often possible to make changes to these agreements or judgments. These changes are known as a “modification” of the divorce agreement or judgment. It is also possible to modify custody agreements, child support orders and sometimes even spousal maintenance orders.

There are two common ways to get your support order modified. The first is to bargain or negotiate with your former spouse. If the two of you, alone or with the help of family law attorneys or a mediator, are able to come to an agreement, that bargain can be presented to a judge as a “stipulated agreement.” Judges usually accept these agreements and issue orders based on them.

In cases where your former spouse refuses to cooperate or you cannot come to an agreement, you can file a “petition to modify.” In order for a judge to modify a child support order, there typically must have been some substantial change in the financial circumstances of one of the parties, a 15% change in a party’s income or just the fact that 3 years have transpired since the Agreement or Judgment was entered.  Spousal maintenance can be modified only upon extreme financial circumstances (in the case of an Agreement) an unanticipated and substantial change of circumstances (in the case of a Judgment).

If the terms of your divorce are inadequate to meet the changing needs of you or your children, it is important that you speak to a family law attorney with experience. The attorneys at Pusatier Sherman Abbott & Sugarman, LLP help clients in the Buffalo area get divorce orders and Agreements modified, whether by using us a a mediator between you and your ex-spouse or in representing you in litigation or in the collaborative family law process. To meet with a knowledgeable attorney, contact us online or call us at 716-262-9600.

By Steven R. Sugarman | Published January 31, 2016 | Posted in Divorce & Family Law | Tagged child custody, child support, divorce modifications, spousal support