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Can a Divorce Decree be Modified in New York?

Posted on September 24, 2019

Experienced family law attorneys help you update your divorce agreements

Life after divorce can change drastically. Even though divorces are hard enough to go through once, you may find that you need to revisit the terms of your separation agreement to make appropriate adjustments.

Divorce decree modifications must meet specific terms, so retaining a skilled New York matrimonial attorney is in your best interests.

Common reasons for a divorce modification

Divorce agreements are meant to be considered final, so obtaining a modification requires evidence that an adjustment is necessary. Life changes fast, and sometimes that means a new job, new opportunities, new incomes, or new demands on you and your children’s lives.

In order to modify your divorce agreement, you must appear before a Family Court or Supreme Court judge, prepared to show evidence of significant changes in your life and a plan for how each component of your divorce will need to be updated.

Modification of alimony

Most spousal maintenance modifications in New York are requests to terminate maintenance. This is possible if the payor sustains a significant change in income, suffers major financial losses, becomes seriously ill or debilitated, or retires. Similarly, if the spouse receiving alimony comes into their own fortune, maintenance payments may cease.

Other modifications of spousal support are possible, but unlikely, and must show that the receiving party is unable to become financially independent. The party who files for the maintenance modification must show documentation and evidence to prove the significant change in circumstances.

Child support modification

Changing a child support order is possible but, as with alimony modifications, requires proof that modification is appropriate. The New York Family Court judge or Supreme Court judge will review the petition or motion to update child support payments if the following conditions apply:

      • It has been three years since the order was established
      • Substantial change in cost of caring for the child, such as increased health expenses, and the child’s needs are not met by the current child support order
      • There has been a significant involuntary change in one partner’s income (loss of 15% or more)

It is important to file for modification as soon as a significant change becomes apparent. Failure to make child support payments has serious consequences.

Child custody modification

It may be difficult, but parents can have their child custody agreements changed, as long as both parents agree to the proposed changes, or if he or she can prove that there has been a significant change in circumstances. Such changes must involve:

      • The child’s health, emotional or developmental needs
      • An older child’s desire to spend more or less time with one parent
      • A parent’s change in job or residential status, rendering the current custody arrangement impractical
      • Concerns about the security, stability, and safety of a parent’s home
      • A parent has become mentally unstable or otherwise unfit to care for a child
      • Evidence of domestic abuse
      • Violations of the current custody order

The court must find that for any of the reasons above, supported by evidence presented by the petitioner, the current child custody agreement is no longer in the child’s best interests and that a modification of the terms would be appropriate.

If the court does not find reason to modify the agreement, the terms of the current child custody arrangement must remain observed.

Thorough, skilled family lawyers helping to preserve your rights after divorce

We understand what is required to convince a judge to update a divorce agreement, and we stand ready to help you prepare the strongest case possible to obtain the outcome you deserve. Serving Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and the surrounding counties, the matrimonial attorneys at the law offices of Vivien I. Stark, P.C. have over 30 years of experience in divorce and family law in New York City.

Contact our office online or call (212) 349-1600 today to schedule your initial consultation.