Fraud Blocker

4 Situations Where You Might Need to Modify Your Original Divorce Agreement

You might be surprised to know that a California divorce agreement is not always set in stone. Although its terms address the current and anticipated needs and circumstances of both spouses, we all know that life can present us with unexpected changes such as job loss, disability, or sudden medical expenses for a child.

California law accommodates this reality by allowing original divorce agreements to be modified if one or both spouses experience a significant change in circumstances. Let’s take a closer look at four such situations.

  1. Reduced Income

Due to no fault of his own, Steve had his hours cut back at the factory where he works. He’s actively looking for another job, but he’s been unsuccessful. Until he finds something else, Steve’s gross monthly income is 25% less than it used to be, and it’s making it difficult to maintain alimony payments to his former wife, Anna.

California law states that for the purpose of modifying alimony, a 20% increase or reduction in gross monthly income is sufficient to warrant a modification, so a court should lower the amount that Steve pays Anna until his employment situation improves.

  1. Increased Needs of the Children

Shawn and Jennifer have a son, Aidan, who was a toddler when they divorced. Nearly two years later, he has been diagnosed with a learning disability that requires him to attend a special school and work with tutors. Aidan’s diagnosis has made the original child support order insufficient, so Jennifer may be able to obtain a modification that requires Shawn’s support payments to increase.

A note about modifying a child support order in California: only future payments will be affected. Any support paid in the past cannot be modified.

  1. One of the Former Spouses Moves Away

California courts assume that custody arrangements should not be changed unless doing so is in the best interests of the children. In the case of Brendan and his former wife Bethany, the original custody agreement provided them with joint legal custody of their twin girls and split the parenting time approximately 70-30, with Bethany having primary physical custody.

Now Bethany’s employer is transferring her to a branch office nearly 100 miles away and Brendan has agreed that the financial benefits are in the best interest of the children. Given the fact that both parents support the move and the girls will benefit from their mother’s increased earning ability, the court will likely agree to a custody modification.

  1. Marital Assets Were Not Disclosed During the Divorce

Changing the terms of the property division in your divorce decree is arguably the most difficult modification to seek, which is why it rarely happens. However, exceptions may be made in cases where fraud was involved in the original allocation of assets.

For example, Suzanne has discovered that her former husband overpaid his income tax bill during the divorce and claimed a huge refund for the overpayment the next year. Since this was clearly an attempt to conceal money and prevent it from being distributed, the court may modify the original property division to reflect the previously undisclosed marital funds.

At Ahluwalia Law P.C., we understand a divorce judgment that was fair and equitable at the time can become unsupportable when your life changes. Attorney Madan Ahluwalia will meet with you, discuss your situation, and advise you on the legal steps needed to change your divorce decree. To schedule a consultation, please contact us today.