In many civil cases, such as car crash claims, judicial orders close the matter. Typically, these orders contain claims waivers. So, it’s difficult or impossible to re-open the case.
Divorce decrees are different, specifically with regard to visitation and parenting time matters. In these situations, the divorce decree was never meant to be permanent. Typically, a Hutchinson divorce lawyer must modify these decrees at least once every three or four years.
If both parents agree on the change, at least in principle, these matters are straightforward. Even if there are some lingering disagreements, a Hutchinson divorce lawyer can usually iron them out rather quickly and then present the agreement to the judge. Usually, McLeod County judges approve these agreements. Sometimes, they do not even hold hearings.
If the motion is contested, the moving party must prove that circumstances have materially changed and the requested modification is in the best interests of the children. Note that the best interests of the children is different from the preferred outcome for the children or the best interests of the parents.
Statistically, most divorced parents remarry more than once. Overall, the divorce rate is less than 50 percent. But roughly two-thirds of second marriages end in divorce. For third marriages, the divorce rate increases to three out of four. New marriages fundamentally alter family dynamics, especially if both spouses have children from prior relationships.
So, a new spouse is one of the most common reasons for a custody or visitation modification. However, the change is not automatic. The new situation must affect the children. For example, an adult might have a prior domestic violence conviction or a stepchild might have documented serious emotional issues.
Job changes often affect alimony and child support obligations, since these moves usually involve a lower or greater salary. The change might also affect parenting time. Most new jobs usually mean longer (or shorter) commutes and different hours.
Typically, the parenting time changes are rather subtle. For example, instead of picking up the children at 6:00 p.m, Dad may not be able to get to the house until 6:30. In these situations, many parents make “side agreements.” Often, these agreements may be a text message string. Such pacts are unenforceable in family court. If one parent unilaterally decides to go back to the way things were, the other parent has no recourse.
Most people relocate quite frequently. Perhaps they change jobs, want to be closer to (or further away from) family, have financial problems, buy a house, or need a change of scenery. Some of these changes affect the children, and some do not.
McLeod County is very spread out. Even if a family just moves a few blocks, the move could alter the delicate pickup and dropoff balance, especially on weeknights. If you need to make changes, make sure a Hutchinson divorce lawyer puts them in writing and a judge signs off on the change. Otherwise, the parents could wind up back in court on an enforcement motion. Even if the parent only committed technical violations, the punishment could be severe.
Onset or Removal of Disability
These changes are quite common as well. A serious illness could mean time-consuming treatments away from home and lack of energy at home. Other people develop, or overcome, substance abuse problems. Finally, many parents successfully complete court-ordered parenting or anger management classes.
All these situations directly affect the children. Furthermore, they are clearly substantial changes. However, the change must also be permanent. For example, broken bones, even serious ones, usually heal eventually. As a rule of thumb, if the disability will not last more than three or four months, a judge will probably not modify the orders. The parties would just be back in court a few weeks later.
Kids grow up and their schedules get busy. This change is inevitable. So, a judge will probably not modify orders because the children are older.
While these physical changes are generally predictable, emotional changes are different. Sometimes, parents and children drift apart, especially after many years of part-time parenting. When children are young, if they refuse to go on a visit, a parent can force, cajole, bribe, or threaten them. The older the children get, the less effective these things become. Eventually, a Hutchinson divorce lawyer may need to change the decree to account for these emotional changes.
Count on Experienced Attorneys
Families change, and divorce decrees must change as well. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.