When a court has ruled on a family law matter, parties often mistakenly assume the court order is the end all and the judicial decision is set in stone. Though this can be true for some family law issues, such as property division, it is not always the case with many issues. Specifically, if there is spousal support or children involved, modification from the initial court order is very common and often helpful in certain situations. As we all know, circumstances in life change over time and sometimes judicial family law orders should change along with us.
In general, child custody, child support, and spousal support are subject to modification either upon mutual agreement of the parties or if one party shows to the court a substantial, unanticipated change in circumstances, since either, the divorce was finalized or, if the parties were not married, since the court order was granted.
Modification of these issues, however, involves far more than the basic change-in-circumstances rule. In modification cases, an Oregon lawyer must be familiar with the jurisdictional technicalities of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), the procedural requirements and forms of the Uniform Trial Court Rules, the Oregon Administrative Rules, the Supplementary Local Rules, and potentially in the case of grandparent rights, for example, the statutes dealing with third parties rights and restrictions.
Parenting time, on the other hand, does not require a change of circumstance but is modified based on what is in the “best interest of the child.” The best interest of the child analysis looks at numerous issues such as family environment, family relations and contacts including stepsiblings’ relationships, social relations such as contact with peers and other adults as well as general parenting skills, school and medical issues. For parents, the best interest of the child analysis can be very subjective, so one parent’s thought of what is in the “best interest” of the child can be entirely different from the other parent’s perspective on the same issue. Modification of parenting time by the court is typically done without the emotional component and with guidance from the law. Generally speaking, if the case has not been before the court, the judge’s starting point is 50/50 equal parenting time but once a judicial order has been issued and modification is requested, the starting point for the judge as to parenting time can vary.
Modification in parenting time, child custody, child support, and spousal support at times is necessary. Life changes as time moves forward. If you need assistance with a family law modification, please feel free to contact our office for a consultation.
Scott C. Bucy is an attorney with the Law Office of Robert Good LLC, specializing in business, landlord-tenant, family law and contracts.