Vaughan Divorce Lawyers Advising on Post-Divorce Modifications
A family’s circumstances can be expected to change as time passes after a divorce. When a significant change has occurred, a party may wish to amend the terms of a court order or separation agreement to reflect the family’s current situation. This is common where the parties are subject to a court order or agreement relating to parenting arrangements, child support, or spousal support.
At GDH Family Law, our skilled divorce lawyers understand your family is not static, and their needs will evolve. We provide customized legal solutions to efficiently and effectively resolve issues as they arise in the years following a divorce, including motions to modify a court order or agreement (also called a “variation”). Our lawyers provide as much or as little support as needed and can help at any stage of your family law matter, even after the primary issues have been resolved.
Variations to Family Court Orders
A party who wishes to vary the terms of a court order must bring a Motion to Change before the courts. If both parties agree on the proposed variation, they can proceed by consent motion; otherwise, the respondent party will be required to file a response to the applicant’s motion. If the parties cannot resolve the matter on their own, they may need to have a judge decide the issue.
Parenting Order Changes
A parenting order sets out each parent’s parenting time (access) or decision-making responsibility (custody). These orders are granted based on the circumstances and best needs of the child at the time of the order.
The needs of a family’s children will change as they grow up. However, to obtain a variation to an existing court order, the court must be convinced that there has been a material change in circumstances.
Some examples of a material change of circumstances affecting parenting arrangements include:
- An increase in conflict or animosity between the parties that complicates their ability to co-parent effectively;
- The parent with primary decision-making responsibility is refusing to facilitate or is actively interfering with the other parent’s parenting time;
- The child’s school schedule has changed to the extent that it conflicts with one parent’s parenting time;
- There has been a breakdown in the child-parent relationship to the extent that the child wishes to reside with the other parent; or
- A parent becomes unable or unwilling to meet their parenting responsibilities or poses a safety risk to the child.
As is always the case with matters affecting children, any change to the parenting order must be in the child’s best interests.
Support Order Changes
Motions to vary spousal or child support orders are usually brought in situations where a spouse’s financial circumstances have changed or a child’s needs have evolved.
Spousal Support Variations
Spousal support orders are intended to help the spouse who earned less during the marriage become financially independent and stable post-separation. When a payor spouse believes the recipient spouse is now able or should be able to support themselves, they may bring a motion requesting permission to reduce or terminate their support payments.
Other examples of situations that may justify a change in spousal support include:
- The parties’ child(ren) move out or no longer reside with the recipient spouse;
- The payor spouse has new children through their subsequent marriage;
- One of the spouses develops serious health issues or disability;
- One of the spouses retires or becomes unable to work;
- One of the spouses’ financial situation or earnings drastically changes;
- The recipient spouse is not making enough effort to become financially independent (e.g. is intentionally unemployed or underemployed); or
- One or both spouses remarry and gain financial support from their new partner.
Child Support Variations
The Child Support Guidelines provide that where the current circumstances would result in a different child support order being granted under the guidelines, a parent can apply for a variation to the original order. Some examples include:
- The payor parent’s income has changed enough that a new Child Support Guidelines table amount would apply;
- There has been a change to the parties’ parenting time or decision-making responsibility;
- The child has grown up and moved out or gone to university; or
- There has been a material change to the child’s needs, such as increased medical or schooling costs.
A parent’s child support obligations are owed to the child and not the recipient parent. Therefore, changes to the recipient parent’s life, such as their relationship status, employment, or living conditions, do not justify a variation to the amount of child support. They may, however, affect how the child’s special or extraordinary (section 7) expenses are shared between the parents.
Modifications to a Separation Agreement
When there is no court order, but the parties have entered into a separation agreement, they should try to negotiate any proposed changes to the agreement. In some cases, the terms of the agreement set out the circumstances that trigger the need for a variation. The assistance of a qualified family lawyer can help resolve disputes and avoid the need for litigation. However, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, they may need to bring the matter before the court for a judge’s determination.
Contact GDH Family Law in Vaughan for Post-Divorce Modifications
GDH Family Law has extensive experience helping clients vary court orders and agreements to meet the current needs of their families. You don’t need to be an existing client of our firm for us to provide assistance after a divorce. Our firm offers à la carte legal services to assist clients with single issues, such as variation motions. Alternatively, if you need more comprehensive support, our responsive team is ready to represent you throughout your family law proceedings.
The divorce lawyers at GDH Family Law represent clients in Vaughan (including Maple, Concord, Woodbridge, Kleinburg) and the surrounding areas, including Markham, Richmond Hill, Nobleton, Toronto, Newmarket, Aurora, Brampton, Caledon, Mississauga, Etobicoke, North York, Thornhill, and King City. For a free initial consultation on your family matter, contact us at 416-535-6944 or reach out online.