There are two ways that couples end up with enforceable support and custody orders at the end of a divorce. Some couples file uncontested divorces because they either have a marital agreement clarifying their obligations to one another or they negotiated with one another to settle matters outside of court.
Other times, couples aren’t able to settle such matters on their own, so they litigate. Judges can review documentation and testimony about the marriage and then interpret Maryland state law to divide custody, award support payments and split up marital property and debts.
Occasionally, couples will find themselves in a situation where they need to adjust those orders following a divorce. Those couples will typically need to file for post-decree modifications.
Informal agreements offer little protection
Especially if you have invested thousands of dollars in litigating your divorce, you may see the value in working cooperatively after the end of your divorce proceedings. Agreeing to change spousal support, child support or custody schedules may seem like a smart alternative to going back to court.
However, informal changes are not enforceable and may actually leave one of you vulnerable to enforcement action later. If you agree with one another that the change is necessary, you can cooperate for an uncontested modification. A judge will simply review the changes you propose for support or parenting time and then approve them provided that they are in the best interests of the children.
The courts can help you protect your children
Cooperating isn’t always possible when you want to change your custody order. Sometimes, you realize a few months into a shared custody arrangement that your ex has engaged in inappropriate discipline or doesn’t meet the children’s basic needs while they are responsible for the kids.
If you have documentation of your ex neglecting or endangering the children, you can potentially ask for a modification that will limit your ex’s time with or control over the children until they adjust their behavior.
Modifications can protect you financially
If you lose your job, a child support modification may be the only thing standing between you and aggressive enforcement efforts by the state. While even a total loss of income will not absolve you of child support obligations, a modification can reduce the amount you currently owe so that you will have an easier time making those payments or catching up when you get a new job.
Although you may not like the idea of going back to court, updating your custody arrangements and support order may be the best choice as your family circumstances continue to change. Learning about modifications to the orders in family law cases will help you respond to changing family circumstances following your initial divorce.