Modifying and Enforcing Divorce + Custody Agreements in Connecticut
Judgments, Marital Settlement Agreements, and Parenting Agreements in part establish the terms of ongoing interactions between former spouses, including arrangements for child custody, child support, maintenance, and the division of property.
People's lives, however, inevitably change, and plans established at the time of divorce may not be feasible years later. In other circumstances, ex-spouses exhibit the same non-cooperative or manipulative behavior as they did during the marriage, and regularly violate the terms of these agreements and judgments.
At The Family Law Firm of Healy + Eliot PLLC, our Connecticut family law attorneys help clients seek post-divorce modifications that reflect major lifestyle changes for ex-spouses, parents, and children, such as relocation, remarriage, illness, and financial difficulties.
For those having trouble with an ex-spouse following the rules, we can help to establish new boundaries and enforce the terms that already exist in their agreements. Call our New Canaan law office now at 203-652-8018 or reach out to us directly here to schedule your fully confidential initial consultation.
An Ongoing Obligation May Require Modification or Enforcement
Following a divorce, the parties may not have ongoing obligations to each other. As an example, imagine that a Fairfield County, CT couple gets divorced after a four-year marriage. They do not have kids and no spousal support is awarded as part of the agreement. In this scenario, there are no ongoing obligations and, therefore, there is likely no need to worry about the prospect of modifying or enforcing a judgment/agreement.
On the other hand, many couples who separate in Connecticut do have ongoing obligations. It could be parents who have shared child custody or that post-divorce alimony is owed by one spouse to the other.
An ongoing obligation may need to be enforced if one party fails to live up to its responsibilities. Similarly, an ongoing legal obligation may be subject to modification if circumstances have changed. At The Family Law Firm of Healy + Eliot, we handle the full spectrum of family law modification & enforcement cases, including those related to:
- Child custody & visitation rights
- Child support payments
- Alimony (spousal support)
Know the Law: Modification Requires a Substantial Change in Circumstances
It is important to understand what a modification is and what it is not. Connecticut courts are not interested in re-litigating the same child custody, child support, or spousal support case over and over again.
A person cannot obtain a modification of a family law judgment or agreement simply because they no longer want to abide by the terms. In Connecticut, you can only obtain a modification if there has been a substantial and material change of circumstances.
As explained by the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, the party seeking a modification of a previous agreement/judgment must file a Motion for Modification. The person who is seeking a family law modification—whether it is for child custody, child support, or spousal support—has the burden of proving that there has been a substantial change in circumstances and that their proposed modification is proper given the specific situation.
A Modification is Easier to Obtain When Both Parties Agree
When there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances, a Connecticut court can modify the original terms of a judgment or agreement—even if one party is strongly against any change. That being said, it is far easier to get a modification approved when both parties agree that a change is appropriate. Indeed, Connecticut courts are willing to give considerable deference to parties that can work together on family law matters.
For this reason, a person who is seeking a family modification should always consider their option for negotiating an agreement with their former partner.
For example, imagine that you are a parent with shared custody who is preparing to relocate across the state for a new job. That is a substantial change in circumstances that can justify a modification of the custody agreement.
At the same time, it will be far easier to get a modification that works well for your family if you can reach an agreement with your former partner. Of course, an agreement is not possible in every case. You may be dealing with a co-parent or former partner who simply refuses to cooperate or negotiate in good faith. Still, it should be considered.
Reasons to Change a Divorce or Custody Agreement
Before a divorce can be finalized, issues such as child custody and parenting time, child support, and alimony need to be resolved. The law understands, however, that life moves forward, often in directions unforeseen at the time of divorce. When a significant or “substantial change” in circumstances affects the operability of a custody or support arrangement, either party to a divorce may seek a modification of the court order. Possible examples of such change in circumstances may include:
- One parent decides to relocate and move out of state or far from the other parent.
- A former spouse remarries or begins to cohabitate with another person.
- A former spouse loses his or her job, suffers a substantial decrease in income, or gains new employment or promotion.
- A child's needs change, including cases in which a child develops or has complicated special needs.
- One parent is interfering with a child's relationship with the other parent.
- A former spouse's physical or mental condition has deteriorated, such as by drug or alcohol abuse.
- A former spouse is convicted of a crime.
Notably, when a proposed modification involves child custody or visitation, it must also be in the best interest of the child. Our family law attorneys understand that living with an unworkable child custody arrangement can cause great stress for parents and harm to children. For clients in need of child custody modifications, we work as quickly as possible so appropriate changes are made to meet current needs.
Enforcement of Custody and Financial Orders
Orders related to a divorce or child custody arrangement must be followed. Unfortunately, all too often, people do not always abide by the terms of court orders and custody agreements. Connecticut law provides remedies to enforce judgments, orders, and agreements, such as withholding income, placing liens on property, driver's license suspension, and even jail.
If you have any questions about enforcing a judgment, order, or agreement, the attorneys at The Family Law Firm of Healy + Eliot are more than ready to help you find the best path forward. Call The Family Law Firm of Healy + Eliot at our New Canaan law office for immediate assistance.
The Importance of a Proactive Approach in Modification and Enforcement Cases
With family law issues in Connecticut, it is always best to take a proactive approach. This is especially important in modification and enforcement cases—no matter what side of the issue you are on. You should be prepared to take swift action if:
- Your current judgment/agreement is not working and you want a modification
- Your former partner is failing to abide by the terms of the judgment/agreement and you need to enforce your legal rights
- You are falling behind on child support payments or spousal support payments and you are concerned about legal action
The sooner you address the matter, the better position you will be in to find a solution that works. With child custody & visitation issues, you must be doing what is right for you and your children. With child support and spousal support issues, it is easier to find financial solutions if you take action before anyone falls too far behind on their payments.
How Our Connecticut Family Law Attorneys Can Help
Connecticut family law is complicated. The conclusion of a case does not necessarily mean that the matter is resolved forever. At The Family Law Firm Healy + Eliot PLLC, our Fairfield County family law firm helps clients with the full range of modification and enforcement issues. We are ready to begin working on your behalf immediately. Among other things, our Connecticut family law attorneys are prepared to:
- Answer your questions and explain your rights under Connecticut law
- Help you identify every avenue for modifying or enforcing a judgment/agreement
- Gather all documents, records, legal paperwork, and other information
- Represent you in settlement negotiations with your former partner
- Take proactive steps to ensure that you can obtain the best outcome
We are committed to providing every client with the personalized, attentive legal guidance and support that they rightfully deserve. Family law modification cases and family law enforcement cases in Connecticut are both highly fact-specific. You can rely on our Connecticut family law attorneys to handle your case the right way.
Contact an Experienced New Canaan Family Lawyer for Immediate Help
If you need to pursue the modification or enforcement of a court order after divorce, please contact the Family Law Firm of Healy + Eliot for help. We will take the time to understand your unique circumstances and determine the best way to present your case so you can achieve the result you want.
To schedule an in-person or virtual meeting with one of our New Canaan family law attorneys, please call 203-652-8018 or complete our online contact form. We represent clients throughout Fairfield County, including New Canaan, Stamford, Bridgeport, Danbury, Greenwich, Stratford, Shelton, Westport, Norwalk, and Bethel.