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Family Law Blog

When To Consider Modifying Your Divorce

Published: Oct 11, 2022 in Adoption, Child Custody, Family Law
Woman in red signing divorce decree

Written by Anthony Piccirilli

If circumstances have changed in your life or in your former spouse’s life, you might want to consider modifying your divorce decree to reflect the update.

Of course, you must follow a process when pursuing modifications post-decree. Having the proper evidence to support any modifications and knowing when you can apply to change things set in the divorce agreement will help you.

Types of Modifications A Pennsylvania Judge Considers

To seek the modification of a divorce decree, petitions must be filed with the court where the divorce was finalized.

Modifications tend to be limited to:

  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Property division (only in extreme circumstances)

Alimony

To modify alimony, the divorce decree must contain language allowing a change in alimony.

If they have a clause allowing modification, either spouse, either the payor or the payee, can apply to change the amount or duration of payment.

They’ll need to prove there has been a “material change” in the circumstances. If a spouse has involuntarily lost their job, or the spouse receiving payments is making more money, the judge may approve changing the alimony.

Child Support

Like alimony, a request to modify a child support order must be based on a substantial increase or decrease in the financial situation of one or both parents. A modification will not be granted just because one parent thinks ‘it’s time’ to do it.

In Pennsylvania, court-ordered child support ends when the child reaches the “age of maturity” at 18 or graduates high school, whichever comes later. Sometimes, parents can agree to continue payments past those statutory minimums in their divorce decree.

Child Support Guidelines

Pennsylvania’s child support guidelines are updated every four years to reflect changes in the cost of living.

2022’s updated guidelines consider the parents’ combined monthly income and adjust the payments accordingly. The payment difference is calculated by the number of children in the support order.

The court will also consider other factors, such as health insurance, childcare expenses, and extra-curricular costs.

Terminating Child Care

A parent must continue paying child support, even if a termination date is included in the child support order. A child support payor must submit a Petition of Modification to apply to end the child support.

Child Custody

Several types of child custody exist in Pennsylvania. Parents can have joint or shared custody, working together to make significant life decisions and sharing legal custody. One parent may have sole custody, making major life decisions alone, typically without the other parent’s input.

When to Consider a Custody Modification

Child custody decisions are based upon the child’s best interests, focusing on social, mental, physical, and spiritual needs, which parent historically has provided primary care for the child, and a child’s preference, depending on their age and maturity.

If something has significantly changed in a parent’s life, the other parent could seek to modify custody by filing a Petition for a Change in Custody.

Substantial changes are grounds to modify custody. For instance, if one parent’s job needs them to move away, the other parent can ask for a change in their custody agreement. Lifestyle changes, like different work hours or becoming severely injured, can also be grounds for modification. Each case is unique.

Modifying a Property Agreement

Pennsylvania law allows amending property division, but it is minimal. For example, if one party proves the other spouse lied about their assets at the time of divorce or that personal or real property was secreted, so it was not divided during the divorce proceeding, a court could intervene.

How to Modify Your Divorce Decree

Once you’ve determined you need to modify an order established by your divorce decree, you must submit a Petition to Modification to the county court that handled your divorce.

A hearing will be scheduled for you to present your evidence supporting the new orders. If the judge supports your case, they will modify the orders.

It should be noted that you might want to avoid going back to court and work with your ex to modify the orders.

However, the court recognizes the formal order first, so you could face contempt of court charges for “ignoring” a court order. Working with a family law attorney gives you the best chance for the desired outcome.

Call a Pittsburgh Divorce Attorney for Help Modifying Divorce Decrees

Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC helps if you are considering trying to have your divorce decree modified. Attorney Anthony Piccirilli is experienced and knowledgeable of Pennsylvania’s family law. He can help you organize your case and will help you work to modify your divorce decree.

Call (412) 471-5100 or use our online contact form to schedule a consultation.