Family law cases like divorce cases and child custody/child support disputes are distinct from other types of lawsuits like personal injury cases and contract dispute cases in one important regard: finality. That is to say, where a contract dispute or personal injury lawsuit or even a criminal case will proceed to trial and, following any appeal that may be taken, will be over, certain family law issues can remain subject to change for years after they are first brought before the court. Issues pertaining to spousal support may be able to be modified months or years after such an order was initially entered. Child support and child custody orders may be able to be modified so long as the child remains under the age of 18 years. Such modifications are typically only available where there has been a material or substantial change in circumstance.
Material Changes in Circumstance Described
As you might suspect, not every “change in circumstance” will result in a recalculation of alimony or child support or cause the court to enter new custody orders. Instead, only those changes that are deemed “substantial” or “material” will lead the court to consider entering new orders. What is a substantial or material change will vary from case to case, but the change must usually (1) not be the direct fault or result of one party’s bad actions; and (2) be expected to last for an indeterminate or substantial amount of time. Examples include:
- Experiencing an injury that results in being unable to work full-time or accepting a less-strenuous (and lower-paying) job;
- Being laid-off and not having other reasonable employment prospects;
- Incurring an unexpected new expense that will require a considerable amount of time to address (such as a large medical bill);
- Bringing a new partner into the home who has a history of abusive behavior or who engages in conduct that is harmful or dangerous to your child;
- Committing a serious violation of the law that threatens the safety of your child (such as driving under the influence of alcohol, especially if committed while your child is in the car with you); and
- Other similar situations and circumstances.
No Consideration of Contrived Emergencies or Self-Inflicted Difficulties
Courts are not likely to modify existing orders where the party seeking the modification contributed to the change in circumstances. For instance, a person cannot leave his or her job without good cause or engage in misbehavior and be fired and then seek to modify support orders. In a similar vein, filing for bankruptcy will generally not result in being able to escape your court-ordered support payments. Courts simply do not want to incentivize bad behavior or condone conduct designed to thwart support or custody orders of the court.
Being on the other end of this sort of behavior can be downright frustrating, as it is not always easy to prove your ex-spouse or the other parent of your child acted with the intention of being fired or deliberately overextended him- or herself financially in order to gain a modification to a support order. If you do believe this is what your ex-spouse or the other parent of your children is up to, speak to your Columbus family law attorney to discuss what you may be able to do about it.
Dawes Legal, LLC is Available to Help Parents and Divorcees in Ohio
Call Dawes Legal, LLC at (614) 733-9999 and speak with our experienced family law team about modifications to your existing child support, child custody, and/or spousal support orders. We will work with you and your circumstances and attempt to seek modifications to existing support and custody orders. In necessary, we can also help you fight back against unlawful and unwarranted attempts to change these orders. Speak with us today so we can get to work helping you.