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post decree modifications

Modifications are generally off-shoot cases from prior divorce and paternity actions.  Once a decree of dissolution of marriage, a decree of legal separation, or a finding of paternity with an award of legal decision-making and child support, is entered, either party may seek to modify the orders pertaining to child legal decision-making, parenting time, child support or spousal maintenance, as may be appropriate under the statute.  Modification actions take place when one party later comes back to court alleging that there are changes of circumstances of a substantial and continuing basis that warrant a modification.


*Modification of child legal decision-making cannot be requested earlier than one year after the date of the legal decision-making order unless the court permits it to be requested on the basis of affidavits that there is reason to believe the child’s present environment may seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental , moral or emotional health.  At any time after a joint legal decision-making order is entered, a parent may petition the court for modification of the order on the basis of evidence that domestic violence, spousal abuse or child abuse occurred since the entry of the joint legal decision-making order.  Six months after a joint legal decision-making order is entered, a parent may petition the court to modify the order based on the failure of the other parent to comply with the provisions of the order.


*Modification of parenting time can be requested based upon the best interest of the child(ren).  Parents may have a change in their work schedule which then changes their ability to exercise parenting time on certain days or times.  Children’s schedules may change requiring adjustments in their availability to either parent.  The child’s age and activities may require adjustments in parenting time as the child becomes older.


*Modification of child support can be requested based upon a substantial and continuing change of circumstances for either or both parents.  A variance of at least 15% between the existing order and the proposed new order would be evidence of a substantial and continuing change of circumstances. 


Changed circumstances for purposes of child support can include:


  • a change in the gross income of either parent

  • a new child being supported by either parent,

  • a change in the cost of medical/dental insurance for the minor child

  • a change in child care costs

  • a change in parenting time days

  • a change in the cost of education

  • a change in extra-ordinary expenses

  • a child reaching the age of 18 years and being graduated from high school.

Modification of Spousal Maintenance can be requested based upon a substantial and continuing change of circumstances for either spouse, unless the parties agreed in the decree that spousal maintenance is non-modifiable.  Grounds for modifying spousal maintenance could include a substantial and continuing change in income and/or expenses of either spouse, or a substantial and continuing change in the health of either spouse which changes their ability to work.


Life changes after the original divorce decree or paternity order, and the terms of the original order can become an excessive burden. Whoever is asking for a change should retain an experienced Arizona family law attorney to seek the modification before the situation becomes such that he or she cannot comply at all. 


As an experienced family law and divorce attorney, I can help file motions with the court asking the judge to modify prior orders for the purpose of accommodating these new circumstances.  I understand that everyone can experience a life change that requires a modification of an existing parenting plan or other post-judgment issue.

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