There is nothing definite about divorce in the long term. When children are involved it is very difficult to walk away or make a “clean break” of a marriage. A divorce decree is a living document that can change over time as children get older and situations change. A divorce modification can generally be requested at any time.
Most any provision in a judgment or decree, including child custody, is subject to a divorce modification due to a change of circumstances. If the requested changes are reasonable and proper under the circumstances, you may very well have them approved by the court. A divorce modification actually amends your original divorce decree and gives you a new final judgment of divorce.
Many types of divorce modification may be made, depending on the facts of the case. These include major elements like custody, visitation or support. Special specific divorce modification can be made such as supervision of children’s internet usage, restricting alcohol or smoking around children, and limiting who can sleep over at the house when children are present.
When Can I Get a Divorce Modification?
Under Alabama law, child support and most other provisions may be modified based on a change in circumstances. This is true whether child support was determined by agreement or by a court. A divorce modification change of circumstances includes changes in the income of either parent and changes in costs of health care and child care.
You can always go back to court and request a divorce modification of child support. However, only a court can modify child support. Even if parents agree between themselves to pay no support or less support, the paying parent is still on the hook for the full amount until a judge changes the divorce decree.
Under Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Procedure, there is a rebuttable presumption that child support should be modified when the difference between the existing child support award and the new amount calculated by the guidelines varies more than ten percent (10%). A trial court has discretion and authority to modify a child-support obligation even when there is not a ten percent (10%) variation between the current obligation and the guidelines. Likewise, a trial court has discretion to deny a modification even when the ten percent (10%) variation is present.
Divorce Modification in the Real World
As time goes on, people sometimes change their agreements without court involvement. Parents modify their visitation schedules, agree to pay each other more or less support, and sometimes do more or less than required under their divorce decrees. These divorce modification changes happen outside the authority of a court and may work well for a time.
However, no changes in support, visitation or otherwise can be officially made without the express consent of a court. You may have done things different than what the divorce decree states for years, by agreement with your former spouse. If suddenly your ex wants to go strictly by the decree, there is nothing you can do about it unless you go back to court and change it.
An Alabama Code section on modification of child custody may be found here, in Alabama Modification Code.
Please see our Child Support section for further information on divorce modification of child support.
Please see our section on Child Custody for information regarding divorce modifications in child custody.
Always remember that each and every case is different. Sound legal advice can only be attained by speaking directly to a knowledgeable and experienced Alabama divorce attorney.