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Post-Judgment Modifications

It’s finally over. You have gotten a divorce. You have entered into an equitable agreement to settle custody, divide property, and agreed upon a fair amount of alimony and child support based upon the circumstances of the case. Why would you possibly need to go into court?

The good or bad news is that you cannot modify any property settlement. Therefore, real estate, personal property, pensions, deferred compensation, bank accounts, stocks or bonds cannot be modified as the post-judgment court no longer has jurisdiction over matters of property in post-judgment matters.

However, alimony, child support, and post-majority support can be modified based upon a substantial change in circumstances. A substantial change in circumstances usually signifies monetary change although there are unique circumstances, such as relocation, that may meet the criteria.

In order to know whether your case qualifies for a post-judgment modification, you must know the case law and statutes as well as the facts of your case. For example, as regards the matter of alimony, the Supreme Court of Connecticut in the case of Dan v. Dan, 315 Conn. 1 (2014) held that:

…the Appellate Court improperly upheld the trial court’s decision to grant the motion for modification because an increase in a supporting spouse’s income, standing alone, ordinarily will not justify the granting of a motion for the modification of an alimony award; when the only substantial change in circumstances after an alimony award has been made is an increase in the supporting spouse’s income, an upward modification of alimony ordinarily is not justified if the original award was and continues to be sufficient to fulfill the original purpose for which it was made, whether that purpose was to maintain permanently the standard of living of the supported spouse at the level that he or she enjoyed during the marriage or to provide temporary support to allow the supported spouse to become self-sufficient, and because the trial court made no finding as to whether the original alimony award continued to be sufficient to meet its original purpose…

So, in common language, you cannot get an upward modification of alimony post-judgment if your present alimony covers the original purpose for which it was made even if your ex-spouse gets a raise after your divorce. The good news for the supported spouse is that this rule does not apply to child support based on the 2016 case of McKeon v. Lennon, 321 Conn. 323 (2016).

There have been Superior Court cases in which the court has distinguished the facts of the case from Dan. Such facts have centered around the number of modifications a party has sought since the time of the divorce and the other particular circumstances of the case. Of course, family law court is equitable in nature and strives to meet the ends of justice.

Custody can be modified post-judgment if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. The change is not limited to financial matters and may include, but is not limited to, matters such as relocation of a parent, remarriage of a parent, or a deterioration in the health of a parent or child such that the present custody arrangement is no longer in the child’s best interest.

Visitation or parental access can be modified solely because it is no longer in the child’s best interest.

In reviewing the facts of your case, you can set up a consultation with a family attorney to access the necessity for change against the backdrop of the child’s best interest. Most often, we benefit by thinking before we leap and the area of post-judgment modification is emblematic of thoughtful consideration.