Your Florida divorce decree is something like a snapshot of a moment in time – it addresses circumstances that exist when your marriage ends. But life goes on and circumstances change. If your decree no longer adequately meets your new circumstances years or even months down the road, you can often change or modify its terms.
Property division is one exception to this rule--that cannot be adjusted. Child support, alimony and/or custody and visitation terms can be modified by the court in most cases if you and your attorney can demonstrate that your circumstances have indeed substantially changed. You're not necessarily stuck with a court order you can't possibly accommodate or live with forever.
Modifying Child Support Provisions
Florida law is reasonably clear-cut when it comes to a substantial change of circumstances with regard to child support. When support is recalculated based on current factors, it must be in the range of at least a 15 percent change from the amount ordered in your decree or a $50 change, whichever is greater. This might occur because of changes in either parent's income or because your parenting plan has changed and your children are spending more time with one parent than originally provided for in your decree.
Modifying alimony can be a bit trickier. As with child support, you must show a change of circumstances that is substantial. But there is no easy 15-percent rule. In alimony cases, 'substantial' is more open to interpretation by the judge. The change must be something that neither you nor your ex could have anticipated at the time of your divorce. It can't result from a voluntary election, such as if one of you decided to stop working. Examples might include injury or illness that prevents the paying spouse from working any longer, or the receiving spouse hitting the lottery. Remarriage doesn't qualify for an alimony modification. If you divorced by marital settlement agreement that expressly waives the right to modify alimony, adjusting or terminating the award typically isn't possible.
There's one more cardinal rule when it comes to alimony. If your decree doesn't order it or provide for it in some fashion, such as by giving you the right to ask for it later, you can't go back to court after your divorce and have your decree modified to include it.
Modifying Custody Terms
Custody is based on the best interests of your children in Florida. This means that if a change occurs that's so detrimental to them that they're better off living with the other parent, the court will entertain the possibility of modifying your decree's terms for time sharing. The substantial change of circumstances rule still applies. As with alimony modifications, the change must have been unforeseen at the time of your divorce, and it must be material. This means your lawyer can show a clear connection between the event and its potential harm to your children. The same rules apply if you just want to tweak your time-sharing schedule.