A large portion of our practice is devoted to post-divorce matters, including the enforcement or defense of applications to modify existing divorce decrees in the areas of:
- Child support
- Spousal support
While one would like to think that a decree of divorce is final in all regards, a substantial and unanticipated change in circumstance often requires a review of the final decree. Additionally, the simple reality is that not all parties uphold their obligations and, unfortunately, applications to enforce the terms of a decree are common.
Vermont Family Law and Modification of Temporary Orders for spousal support, child support, parental rights and responsibilities, possession of property or payments of debts.
The Court can modify different types of Orders only after an Order is entered. If the Court has issued a Temporary Order in the areas of spousal support, child support, parental rights and responsibilities, possession of property or payments of debts, you may be able to modify the Court’s order if real, substantial and unanticipated changes of circumstances occur after the Order was entered.
If you feel that a real, substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances has occurred, you must then file a Motion with the Court, requesting a modification and explaining what you believe the changes in circumstance are.
When moving to modify a Parental Rights and Responsibility Order (child custody order), it is difficult to change the children’s primary home from one parent to another, unless you can make a strong argument that a change or modification of the custody order or parenting plan is in the best interest of the children or unless both parents agree to the modification.
For modification of a Child Support Order, a change is considered real and substantial if it would make the child support amount payable under the child support guidelines at least 10% higher or lower than the amount currently paid as per the current Child Support Order. This may occur when one of the following occurs:
- One parent’s income changes substantially.
- Involuntary loss of employment, where wages are replaced by unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation or disability benefits (voluntarily quitting one’s job cannot be used to justify a reduction in child support, unless such termination of employment was done for good reasons).
- Substantial inheritance.
- Changes in the parenting plans.
Modifying a Final Order
In modifying a Final Order, the Court cannot usually change the Order regarding division of property and division of debts after the nisi period (a period of time during which something that has been done is to be valid unless something else is done to defeat it), regardless of real, substantial and unanticipated changes in circumstances after the divorce.However, all other provisions may be changed if, upon motion, either party can show that a real, substantial and unanticipated change of circumstances has occurred since the Final Order.
Calculating estimated child support payments
Child support is ordered by the court pursuant to specific Child Support Guidelines and is usually determined by a review of the parties’ current incomes and the child care and health insurance costs associated with the minor child(ren). However, the Court may adjust the amount of child support if the guidelines, as applied, are determined to be unfair to the child or any party.
The Vermont Department for Children and Families website provides child support guidelines and a useful tool that can be used to compile data related to a child support case and to obtain a recommendation for child support amounts.