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Post-Judgment Modifications

Post Judgment Modifications In Connecticut

Westport Divorce Attorneys skillfully represent clients in Post Judgment Modification of Alimony, Child Support, Child Custody, Visitation, and Parenting Plans

Divorce and custody orders are predicated on what circumstances exist at the time a Court order is entered. No matter how much information exists at that time, however, significant changes can occur that make a previously entered judgment inappropriate or unfair. Representing clients throughout Fairfield County, Needle | Cuda provides strong legal advice and advocacy to Connecticut residents in cases involving family law modifications. From our office in Westport, we assist clients who are paying alimony and child support and those that are receiving support in matters where someone is looking to alter child support, alimony terms and custody orders.

Qualifying thresholds for Post Judgment Modification of Alimony and Parenting Orders in Connecticut Divorce

Connecticut Post Judgement ModificationsAs experienced Connecticut family law attorneys, we can advise you regarding proposed modifications to previously entered judgments relating to:

  • Alimony — New relationships and shifting financial fortunes might persuade a court to revise alimony terms. When a recipient spouse cohabits, or a judge finds that a substantial change in financial circumstances has occurred, modifications can be made.
  • Child support — You cannot alter a child support order on your own. If an income gain or loss would result in a change of at least 15 percent in the ordered rate, our firm can prepare a Motion for Modification as well as the supporting documentation and Financial Affidavit. We also represent parents seeking to oppose unwarranted changes.
  • Custody and visitation — All child custody and visitation orders are based on what is in the best interests of the child/children. We know that this standard can be difficult to evaluate, but we are confident we can deliver a thorough assessment on how to best present a case to prove a move or some other modification will be best for your child’s physical, emotional, educational and social needs.

No matter how long ago your divorce occurred or whether you’re seeking a modification or trying to prevent one, we’ll give you the knowledge and support you need to pursue your objectives.

Material Changes in Financial Circumstances, Substance Abuse, Domestic Abuse and Relocation in Post Judgment Modification in Connecticut Divorce

Our seasoned lawyers represent clients in negotiations and court proceedings associated with:

  • Relocation — When a custodial parent seeks to move the children for a job opportunity, a romantic relationship or to care for a relative, a modification of custody is a serious issue that is governed by Connecticut statutes. We have successfully handled many issues revolving around complex custody matters that can be life altering.
  • Financial changes — A substantial increase or loss in income might justify a shift in alimony or a child support rate.
  • Health or substance abuse issues — Though custody and visitation determinations are designed to maintain strong relationships between children and both parents, a health or substance abuse problem could create the need for immediate changes.
  • Neglect or mistreatment — Parents who don’t meet their obligations or present a risk to their child can have their parental access limited or eliminated.

If you believe that a post-judgment modification might be warranted or you have received a request for a change, we’ll deliver comprehensive support and work diligently to reach a favorable result.

Contact our seasoned Fairfield County family law attorneys to schedule a consultation

Needle | Cuda advises Connecticut clients on post-judgment modifications to family law orders and other issues pertaining to divorce, custody and visitation. Please call 203-557-9500 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our office in Westport.

 

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers – Post Judgment Modifications to My Divorce

Only certain provisions, in limited circumstances, are available can be "revisited" with respect to a Connecticut Divorce.  That said, there is a big difference between a divorce modification, "opening" your divorce and a Divorce Appeal.

Generally, a divorce can only be "opened" if there was fraud or there failure to fully disclosure assets but it’s very rare that a divorce is reopened.  Motions to Open typically will revolve around omissions of facts and information.

By contrast, a Appeal (Divorce) alleges that the trial judge made a legal mistake and the ruling should be reversed or reconsidered.

Assuming a modification is sought with respect to a specific (permissible) provision in your agreement and the circumstances/context meet statutory requirements, a motion must be filed with the Connecticut Family Court to start the process.  This practice areas is broadly referred to as Post Judgment Modification.

A variety of motions are available to be considered--depending on the provision that you seek to change and/or affect and if you meet statutory requirements; these include:

  • Motion to Modify;
  • Motion for Contempt;
  • Motion to Open;
  • Motion to Compel;
  • Motion to Set Aside;

Knowing which Post Judgment motions to file and under what circumstances requires a depth of knowledge and experience about Connecticut family law and with the Connecticut courts.  These matters are best handled by experienced divorce and family law attorneys.

A Motion to Modify (Divorce) seeks to change or revise a single provision or several provisions of a Divorce Decree, such as the amount set for child support or alimony.

When a divorce is finalized in Connecticut it is called a Divorce Decree.  That Divorce Decree is  a formal court order; it is "final"--unless and until the court rules in favor of a petition of modification and enters a new ("revised") order.

Note that there are thresholds/requirements/guidelines relating to Motions to Modify that are important to highlight:

  • Custody, visitation and child support are always modifiable.  That said, a substantial change in circumstances must be demonstrated for the related motion(s) to be considered;
    • Specifically, with respect to custody/visitation, a judge will only consider a modification request if at least 2 years have passed since the last order was entered or significantly modified. A judge is generally more "open" to  modifying a custody order when the child or children are at least 2 years old.
  • Alimony (also known as spousal support) can be modified as long as 1) the alimony award is not non-modifiable, or 2) your right to alimony was not waived by way of your divorce settlement. If the parties agreed that the alimony award would be non-modifiable, then neither spouse may seek a modification, regardless of the change in circumstances.  If one, or both, parties waived their right to future spousal support obligations in their divorce decree, then no matter how dramatic a change in post-divorce circumstances they experience, that party cannot seek alimony in the future.
    • [NOTE: As a result, spouses’ separation agreements and judges’ decisions often contain a nominal alimony payment like $1.00 to preserve the right to modify alimony — By including $1.00 of alimony, the court is able to modify alimony if it becomes appropriate down the road after a finding of a substantial change of circumstances.]
  • Property/Asset Division is non-modifiable;
  • No statute of limitations or time expirations;

Generally speaking, there is no statute of limitations or expiration of the ability to seek modification to your Divorce Decree.  The core requirement is that a material change in circumstances has occurred.

That said, there are notable exceptions:

Alimony may be non-modifiable in some situations.

Sometimes divorcing parties will waive the right to modify alimony in their divorce settlement.  And so, if it was agreed that the alimony award would be non-modifiable in your divorce, then neither spouse may seek a modification down the road, regardless of the change in circumstances.  If one, or both, parties waived their right to future spousal support obligations in their divorce decree, then no matter how dramatic a change in post-divorce circumstances they experience, that party cannot seek alimony in the future.

[NOTE: As a result, spouses’ separation agreements and judges’ decisions often contain a nominal alimony payment like $1.00 for the purpose of preserving the right to modify alimony — By including $1.00 of alimony, the court is able to modify alimony if it becomes appropriate down the road after a finding of a substantial change of circumstances.]

Decisions related to Property/Asset Division are non-modifiable.

Motions to Modify (Divorce) generally most frequently revolve around custody, the terms of a parenting plan, child support,  and alimony.   Property/Asset division decisions are non-modifiable.

The most frequent drivers for Motions to Modify (Divorce) include:

  • The opportunity or need to relocate (out of state or out of the country);
  • Remarriage or  Cohabitation of your ex-spouse;
  • Changes in income and job status resulting substantial changes in income (both increases and decreases);
  • Unpaid or delinquent Child Support;
  • Unpaid or delinquent Alimony;
  • Unpaid or delinquent medical, insurance, and/or education related expenses;
  • Illness (physical and mental);
  • Short-term and long-term disabilities resulting from a accident;
  • Contested healthcare/treatments relating to your child or children;
  • Contested Religious decisions relating to your child or children;

Examples of substantial changes in circumstances that may support a petition for alimony modification in Connecticut include:

  • A new job, a significant raise, or increase/decrease in compensation;
  • Changes in assets;
  • Illness, mental illness, and other short and long-term disabilities;
  • The loss of child support or change in child custody;
  • Remarriage or Cohabitation;

Examples of substantial changes in circumstances that may support a petition for modification of child custody/visitation include:

  • A long-distance relocation opportunity/request arises;
  • Frequent or habitual non-compliance with existing visitation schedules and/or parenting plan;
  • Situations involving physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or domestic violence;
  • Deterioration of a child’s mental and/or physical health;
  • Sharp declines in performance at school and/or anomalies in a child's educational development;
  • The primary/custodial parent develops a health or medical condition making it impossible to adequately care for the child;
  • Arrests, criminal matters, incarceration;
  • Substance abuse and patterns of addition by parent that endanger a child health and safety;
  • The onset of a mental or terminal illness of a parent (and related hospitalization or commitment);
  • The death of a parent;

No matter your situation, the court will only approve an order modification when it's in the best interest of the child.

And, it is important to note that Connecticut family court judges have broad discretion in the determination of and rulings on these matters.

Under Connecticut law, if one party shows that there has been a substantial change in circumstances , the court, after a hearing, may continue, set aside, alter, or modify the orders related to your divorce.

In deciding such matters, the court must consider  statutory factors to determine what modifications, if any, are appropriate.

Generally, this applies to provisions relating to Alimony, Custody/Visitation, and Child Support.

Court orders relating to Property/Asset Division are non-modifiable.

In the event that your ex-spouse refuses to follow the terms of your Divorce Decree (a court order), filing a Motion for Contempt is a procedural mechanism that can be used to remedy the situation.

A vast majority of people, do in fact, follow court orders without issue, but sometimes an ex-spouse comes along that does not comply (e.g. your ex-spouse doesn't or stops paying alimony and/or child support; your ex-spouse routinely violates the visitation schedule or the terms of you parenting plan;  healthcare and extra-curricular expense are disputed or not properly reimbursed;  there is a failure or delay in following through with some aspect of your property division arrangement)

 

There are two types of Motions for Contempt in a Connecticut divorce:

  • Pendente Lite Motion for Contempt;
  • Post Judgment Motion of Contempt;

The anatomy of divorce has two procedural phases:

  • Pendente Lite (the period during which your divorce is pending in the family court);
  • Post Judgement (the period after your divorce has been finalized by the family court and entered a Divorce Decree (court order)

Note that during the Pendente Lite phase of your divorce, Automatic Order apply in the state of Connecticut that protect the status quo related to your finances, property and your children (e.g. property sales/transfers are prohibited; re-mortgaging your home; beneficiaries on life insurance policies cannot be changed; health insurance cannot be cancelled, etc.)  Automatic orders prevent either spouse from taking unilateral actions with respect to finances, property, and children without mutual consent.

A Motion for Contempt seeks a ruling from the Family Court that finds your spouse in contempt of the prior court order.  A Motion for Contempt requires that the requesting party meet a specific standard call the burden of proof.

Accordingly, for a judge to find your ex-spouse in contempt, the petitioner must successfully demonstrate (with clear and convincing evidence) the following:

  • A clear and unambiguous court order in place;
  • The defendant violated that order;
  • The defendant violated the order acted willfully;

Additionally, you must clearly present and explain the relief/remedy that you are seeking.

The consequence of being held in "Contempt" in Family Court can include:

  • Payment of the opposing party's Attorneys Fees - A party found in "Contempt" can be required to pay opposing party's attorneys fees.
  • Jail Time - Judges also have the discretion to impose jail time.
  • Wage Garnishment - A violators wages may be garnished to satisfy the judgement.

Generally, a divorce can only be "opened" if there was fraud or a failure in one party's financial/property disclosure--but it’s very rare that a divorce is reopened.

In some situations, new evidence, facts, and information can surface after a divorce has been finalized.  In these situations, a Motion to Modify may not offer a sufficient remedy.  When that happens a Motion to Open is one of the procedural vehicles that can be used so that the court can reconsider any and all questions originally raised and impacted by the introduction of the new information.

Generally speaking, a Motion to Open in Connecticut must be filed with respect to a divorce within (4) four months of the date of judgement.  There are further exceptions when a judge finds "good and compelling reason" or the parties mutually agree to waive this requirement.  Other exceptions to the (4) month limitation include: Fraud, the Absence of Consent (including Duress), and Mutual Mistake.

Motions to Open based on Fraud represent a rapidly evolving area of family law in Connecticut.  Such matters are best handled by an experienced divorce and family law attorney.

A Motion to Open due to Fraud presents a very, very high bar.  The Fraud must rise the level that there is a reasonable probability that the result of a new trial would be different.  Additionally, there must be no unreasonable delay by the party bringing the motion following the discovery of the fraud.  And lastly, there must be clear proof the the Fraud and/or perjury.

A Motion to Compel is a request to the court to require an "involved" party to take a specific action.   After a divorce judgment, it is most often used to require a party to that judgment to comply with court’s orders, although a Motion to Compel may be used for other purposes.

In highly contested divorces, it is not uncommon for divorcing parties  to withhold critical evidence, offer vague testimony, file objections to discovery that slow down the process and create a financial burden for their ex-partner.

The behaviors of  these "bad actors" can include: lying about net worth; refusal to produce important personal financial documents like tax returns and bank statements;  obstructing and delaying access to inspection of property and financial/accounting records fcr closely held businesses (e.g. family businesses);  "low balling" the value of property and other complex or exotic assets;  hiding an extra-marital affair and related expenses.

A Motion to Compel "asks" the family judge to order one part to produce the opposing die with evidence related to the divorce which may include:

  • Production of tax returns and related documents (e.g. W-2, 1099's)
  • Production of bank statements, brokerage statements, and other financial holdings;
  • Production of financial records related "owned businesses"  (e.g. profit and loss statements, balance sheets, ledgers, accounts payable records, and distributions, etc.)
  • Deposition testimony;
  • Request for admission of undisputed facts;
  • Personal communications (e.g. emails, texts, posts, photos, and videos)
  • Title to real property and automobiles ;
  • Property appraisals;
  • Insurance policies;
  • Access to real property for inspections and appraisal;
  • Access to exotic property for inspection and appraisal (e.g. art, wine, vintage car collections, etc.)

Yes, prior to filing a Motion to Compel the  petitioner is required to have followed the rules of discovery procedure (in Connecticut), including complete fulfillment and compliance with the petitioner's own production requirements for discovery.  Judicial intervention in the form of a Motion to Compel can only be sought if and when the the Connecticut Practice Book procedure fails.

That said, Motions to Compel are generally discourage.  Prior to filing a Motion to Compel, it is a good idea to make every reasonable effort to resolve outstanding discovery dispute.

A Motion to Compel seeks an ruling from a family judge that results in an court order the compels one party to produce evidence to the opposing party that is related to the divorce action.

  • Section 13-14 of the Connecticut Practice Book authorizes Connecticut state
    courts to issue sanctions for failing to comply with discovery in any of the following ways:
  • Failing to answer interrogatories, or to answer them fairly;
  • Intentionally answering interrogatories falsely or in a manner calculated to mislead;
  • Failing to respond to requests for production;
  • Failing to respond to requests for disclosure of the existence and contents of an insurance policy or the limits thereof;
  • Failing to submit to a physical or mental examination;
  • Failing to comply with a discovery order made pursuant to Section 13-3 of the Connecticut Practice Book, i.e., the rule addressing disclosure of assets when a prejudgment remedy is sought;
  • Failing to comply with Section 13-15 of the Connecticut Practice Book, i.e., the rule addressing a party’s continuing obligation to
    disclose;
  • Failing to appear and testify at a deposition duly noticed; or
  • Failing substantially to comply with any other discovery order
    made pursuant to Sections 13-6 through 13-11 of the Connecticut
    Practice Book;

In practical terms, a family judge can order a party t produce evidence, including:

  • Tax Returns and documents related to income  and earnings.
  • Bank Statements, Brokerage Accounts, and other complex financial holdings (private equity interests, hedge fund holdings, cryptocurrency, etc.)
  • Personal communications (emails, texts, posts, photos, videos, and other electronic "files";
  • Title documents related to real property and automobiles;
  • "Sworn" responses to interrogatories;
  • Deposition testimony;
  • Requests for admission of undisputed facts;
  • Access to property for inspection, appraisal, valuation;

Sometimes, even after the family court issues an order to compel production of discovery items related to your divorce by your spouse, your spouse may continue to ignore the order and fail to produce.

In such instances, a family judge may impose sanctions including:

  • A favorable ruling with respect to the information sought in the Motion to Compel;
  • A Default Order of the court which precludes the defendant from making any further defense in the
    case so far as liability is concerned.
  • Payment of the opposing party's attorneys fees;
  • Additional fees/penalties referred to as sanctions;
  • In extreme cases where there is willful non-compliance, the judge can impose both civil and criminal penalties;

A Connecticut family law judge can order both temporary and permanent modifications.

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