Often times, people need a family lawyer long after a court order issues. The most common examples are requests to modify a parenting plan, child support, and/or alimony. In rare cases, a person may seek to reopen a finalized divorce decree. The legal standard to modify existing orders are specific to the type of case you have. It is important that the attorney you hire knows these differences so that your strongest case is presented to the court or mediator.
Child support can automatically be reviewed after three years, a substantial change in circumstances or if a minor is emancipated. In New Hampshire, a child is emancipated at the age of 18 or when the child graduates high school, whichever occurs later. In all three instances the parties should exchange financials and recalculate the guidelines based on the New Hampshire child support calculator. A new uniform support order will need to be submitted to the court that issued your original order.
In alimony cases, the person seeking to modify alimony must demonstrate that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred which makes the current alimony order unfair. Importantly, if your original alimony award was a result of negotiations between you and your former spouse, a change that was foreseeable and anticipated at the time the alimony order was agreed upon cannot be considered a “substantial” change. For example, if you mediated an alimony payment of $500.00 a month, for five years and you knew at the time that you were going to retire the following year, you cannot move to terminate alimony when you retire and argue that your income is less.
A parenting plan can be modified if there are factors present in your case. The reasons for modifying a parenting plan can be found in the RSA 461-A:11. Interestingly, New Hampshire courts do not allow parenting plan modifications because the change would be in the child’s best interest. Instead, the argument to change the parenting plan needs to be based on the very specific factors listed in the law.
Typically, a court order that divides property and debt in a divorce is considered final and cannot be modified. There are certain exceptions to this rule, but there are only a few. For this reason, it is important that prior to signing any final divorce paperwork you seek the advice of an attorney.
The issue of relocation can arise during or after the divorce or custody case. If you are considering relocating, you have to notify the other parent within 60 days prior to moving. If the other parent objects to the relocation, he/she needs to file a pleading with the court stating the objection. If the pleading is filed, you cannot move absent a court order. Because of the time- sensitive nature of relocation cases, it is important to contact a lawyer immediately if you have questions about the process.
Attorney Connolly has successfully litigated and negotiated favorable resolutions for her clients in post-divorce matters. In 2016, she successfully argued to the New Hampshire Supreme Court that her client’s inheritances acquired after the court issued a divorce decree was not a marital asset subject to division.