A modification to an agreement or decree can only be made if it is shown that either party's circumstances have materially changed. Upon a complaint after a divorce, filed by either parent or by a next friend on behalf of the children after notice to both parents, the court may make a judgment modifying its earlier judgment as to the care and custody of the minor children of the parties provided that the court finds that a material and substantial change in the circumstances of the parties has occurred and the judgment of modification is necessary in the best interests of the children.
The essential elements of a "material change of circumstances" involve a significant alteration of the situation surrounding the child and the custodial scheme, such that the minor's best interests no longer are protected and served. The change in circumstances jeopardizes the health, safety and welfare of the child. For example, a custodial parent who abuses controlled substances jeopardizes the best interests of a child, warranting a new custody order from the court.
Other types of modification can occur, such as to an alimony or support determination. If either party's income has greatly increased or decreased, the court may be able to come back and adjust the order to account for a party's or child's needs. At the Law Office of Robert W. Kovacs, Jr., we can help you if you think your orders should change for you or your children.