One of the most common types of action pursued in family law matters is an action for modification. Modification actions are post-judgment actions, which mean they are brought following the entry of a Final Judgment. Modification actions can be used to pursue a change in parental responsibilities, time-sharing, child support, alimony, and other various terms of a final court order. Some provisions cannot be modified. Modification actions can be pursued in divorce actions, in paternity actions, and even in domestic violence actions.
Know Your Rights
Practically, when you file an action for a modification, you are beginning a new case but within the same court file that the previous action was handled. This means you may have to start anew with properly serving the opposing party with your initial petition for modification. Generally, for one to be successful in a modification action they are going to need to show that there has been a significant change in circumstances since entry of the order sought to be modified.
Depending on specifically what you may wish to have modified, there may be more strict requirements to satisfy a change in circumstances test, or it may not be necessary to prove that a change has occurred at all.
Your Attorney’s Obligation To You
Your attorney’s obligation is to be your staunchest representative and an officer of the Court. We will provide you with the most practical and straightforward advice available in assessing each client’s situations and goals.
Attorney Client Privilege
In Florida, the attorney-client privilege is codified in Section 90.502, Florida Statutes. This law states that, generally, communications between a client and their attorney are confidential. In other words, without a legal waiver or other specific exceptions, you and/or your attorney cannot be compelled to disclose communications made in performing our services.
Relationship Based On Trust
From the initial consult through the final hearing, it is of the utmost importance for attorneys and clients to be truthful with one another and for there to be trust between them. The pair are a team and trust is essential. We believe in being transparent with our clients and we cannot afford to be surprised at any time in a case because a client has failed to be transparent with us. If the idea should ever cross your mind and you question, Should I tell my attorney this? The answer should always be, Yes – we are available to then tell you if “this” may be an issue.
Your Attorney’s Role
An attorney may have several roles throughout a case, especially in family law. We may be your representative, your advocate, your advisor, an/or your counselor.
If a client sought to modify or terminate an alimony obligation because they believed there former spouse may be in a supportive relationship, one would need to prove in fact that the former spouse was in a supportive relationship, not simply that there has been a change in circumstances.
If a client sought to modify a parent’s responsibility or a time-sharing schedule as to a minor child, the other parent would need to show a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances along with a determination that the modification is in the best interest of the child.
If one sought to change or modify either alimony or child support because their income has been reduced, then that individual will also need to be able to prove that the change was involuntary. Meaning you cannot quit your job and say your income is now less.
If a parent was preventing a child from speaking with the other parent, and electronic communication was not expressly prohibited via a previous court order, then the other parent may request the court order that electronic communication take place. In such a circumstance it would not be necessary for the moving party to prove a substantial change in circumstances.
If a former spouse sought to modify the length of an award of durational alimony, it may only be modified under “exceptional circumstances.”
As you can see, there are several nuances in the area of modification actions in family law. Please feel free to reach out to our office to schedule a consultation should you have questions or need help is pursuing a modification of a family law judgment. Once we know more regarding your specific situation, we will be able to tailor our advice and provide you with guidance through this problematic arena.
Unbeknownst to many, once a Florida court has determined that it has jurisdiction over a child, generally meaning that the child has lived continuously within Florida for the six (6) months immediately proceeding the filing of a court action, the Court will require that if a parent wishes to permanently relocate their residence further than 50 miles from their current address (straight line on a map – “as the crow flies” – not driving distance), then the Court will require that parents either sign a written agreement that reflects consent to the relocation and defines a time-sharing schedule taking into consideration the relocation, or, that the relocating parent file a petition with the Court requesting the Court’s permission to relocate.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that you promptly and timely respond to the Court with a filed pleadings if you are served with a Petition for Relocation. Your failure to legally respond to a petition for relocation results in the automatic presumption that the requested relocation is in the child’s best interest and that the relocation should be allowed. Further, the Court will enter an order specifying that it has been entered as a result of your failure to respond, and that the time-sharing and transportation provisions requested in the filer’s petition for relocation should be granted. This order may even be entered without the necessity of an evidentiary hearing. Once you file a response to a petition for relocation, the petitioning parent may not relocate and they must proceed to obtain court permission to relocate.
If you have more questions regarding relocation issues, please feel free to contact our offices to schedule an appointment for a consultation. We’d be happy to assist you further.