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Changes after a Judgment

Posted on in Family Law

California divorce attorney, California family law attorneyDivorce can be extremely stressful. It can feel like the world has been removed from your shoulders once the divorce has been settled and a judgment has been filed. Everything is set, from the child support, to the alimony, and the visitation. Nevertheless, circumstances change with the passage of time.  Some of the orders you obtained in your judgment may no longer be appropriate to your family situation.  You may wish to proceed with post-judgment modifications to address these concerns.

What Can Be Altered

Although generally property division cannot be revisited post-judgment (except on statutorily-enumerated grounds), some of the orders contained in the judgment can be modified:

  • Child support;
  • Child custody and visitation;
  • Parenting time; and
  • Alimony (if the court retains jurisdiction).

The Process

If there has been a substantial change in circumstances, you may be eligible to apply for modification of certain orders:

Child Support

Qualifications: You are able to alter child support payments at any time. When the initial child support amount was set, the judge may have chosen to set the amount below the established California guidelines. If this is the case, then you do not need to show a change in circumstances. However, as is true in most situations, if guidelines were followed to set the initial amount, you will need to prove that there is a change in the circumstances surrounding the guideline factors. A few valid reasons for change are: the income of one or both parents has changed; the child's needs may have changed and there may be more (or less) costs for child care, health care or education; or there have been significant changes in how much time the child in the case spends with each parent.

Process: In order to have child support modified, you must obtain a court order. If both parents agree to the child support modification, the parents can enter into a written stipulation with the help of a mediator and/or the Local Child Support Agency (LCSA). The written stipulation can then be sent to a judge for a signature to become a new Court order. Without the judge’s signature, the change in child support is not enforceable legally. If the parents cannot reach an agreement between themselves, one of the parents must file a motion to modify child support and obtain a court order after hearing.

Child Custody and Visitation

Qualifications: Needs of children change as they grow and mature. Their activity level changes, their interests, as well as their basic necessities of life. It may be beneficial to review the child custody and visitation orders periodically. Every two to three years is a good rule of thumb to follow.

Parents Reach an Agreement: If the parents get along, they can develop a plan themselves or with the assistance of a mediator. Together, they can sign a written stipulation to modify custody and/or visitation.  The written stipulation is then submitted to the judge who will sign it as an order of court which makes it legally enforceable.

Parents Need Assistance to Reach Agreement: If the parents do not agree, one parent can file a motion for custody modification with a written request form called the Request for Order and evidence supporting the requested change. The Request for Order must be filed with the court and served on the other party. In most cases, both parents will be ordered to attend an orientation class and then proceed to mediation. If you do not reach an agreement at mediation, there are further steps that must be taken before the Courts will make a final decision regarding custody and visitation in a litigated case. The court has discretion to make orders which are in the best interests of the child. 

If you need to explore post-judgment modifications, it is helpful to have an experienced attorney on your side. Having someone to call for all of your legal questions who has the understanding of decades of service to the community is an invaluable resource. If you would like to discuss your concerns about your judgment, the law offices of Benita Ventresca will be able to answer any and all of your questions. If you are looking for a Santa Clara, CA family law attorney, contact us today at 408-395-8822 for a free initial consultation. We offer a combination of 35 years of dedication as well as the passion and dedication to putting our clients first.



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