New York Divorce Guide

Modification of Court Orders

In the normal process of Child custody strategiesdivorce (or separation), the court will issue orders that must be followed. At the conclusion of the divorce, the court will make permanent those orders that require continuity. Typically the orders involve:

  • Child Support
  • Child Custody
  • Parenting Time (visitation)
  • Alimony (spousal support)

It is important to note that the court order(s) reflect a permanent condition until or unless there is a dispute, a request by one of the parties to adjust an order, or the natural expiration of the order. Requests to modify require the appropriate form to be filed with the court.

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Child Support – set by a mathematical formula used throughout the State by its courts and judges. The amount of support can be adjusted higher (or lower) depending upon the changing circumstances of the child or either parent. Requests to adjust the amount of support generally go back to the court that issued the original order, and require a substantial change in circumstances to be accepted.

Child Custody – As you might imagine, this is not the court’s first rodeo, so they see most everything coming from far away. Should a parent wish to modify the court order, that parent would need to file the petition with the court that issued the order. This court has jurisdiction. Requests to change the original custody order must be made to the court that has jurisdiction, and must cite new facts that were unavailable to that parent in the original action, or that there has been substantial changes in circumstance. In extreme circumstances, where you look to change custody because the other parent has become unfit, you would use the form: Motion for Modification or Amendment of Prior Custody Order in Divorce Decree to Obtain Sole Custody of Minor Child Due to Unfitness of Custodial Parent

Parenting Time (Visitation) – A change in your child’s schedule can be agreed to by the parents without the approval of the court. You should consider having the court approve any changes, so that they become an official part of the custody order, because things change, and verbal agreements are just that – verbal, and difficult to enforce once the winds shift again (and they will). In cases where there is no agreement to alter visitation, the noncustodial parent must convince the court that an increase in visitation is in the best interests of the child.

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Alimony – this too requires a court order to change the terms. Adjusting the amount and frequency requires a material change in circumstances. Most modifications for alimony come from the payor of spousal support, and generally cite a drop of income or increased costs as a result of a life-altering event (decrease in pay, loss of job, medical expenses, etc.). Less frequently, a petition to increase alimony is requested when the receiving party learns of an increase in income of the paying party. These requests usually are based on the dependent ex-spouse being entitled to a portion of the increase due to his or her efforts during the marriage.

For change of custody and relocation, see our section on Relocation in the tab above

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