Modification of Support and Custody
By Lee A. Schwartz, Attorney at Law
Published: July 17, 2004
Neither support nor custody is ever etched in stone. These orders are always modifiable through the court. If you ever want to change the terms of a custody or support order, I would suggest that you not do it unilaterally; rather, do not change anything unless you file a Petition to Modify first and obtain a new court order.
- Support: Child support is always modifiable if one’s income or job status changes. Once an order is entered, you MUST pay your support through the court system. If you do not, the payment will be considered a voluntary payment (and not a support payment), you will be in contempt and you will accumulate arrears. If you don’t pay support pursuant to an order, you can be put in jail.There are many other items that are paid in addition to just support, day care, medical bills, etc. If there is a change in circumstances and you believe the order should be modified, then file a petition. Do not just unilaterally change what you are paying.
- Custody: As with support, custody is never a “final” order. It is always modifiable. The standard in custody is what is in the child’s “best interest,” It is in the child’s best interest to spend more or less time with one parent, then the court will so order it.As with support, a party must follow a custody order strictly. Intentionally failing to do so is contempt. In some relationships, parents have a good relationship with each other. At a point after the custody order is signed, the parents, since they trust each other, are able to modify the order to their own needs through discussion and flexibility. Obviously in those cases, a new custody order is not necessary since neither party will hold the other in contempt for noncompliance.
If, however, your relationship with the other parent is not so flexible and amicable, follow the order strictly. If changes are warranted, file a Petition for Modification and wait until the court rules before modifying your behavior.