The legal requirements for alimony and child support modifications are oftentimes misunderstood and confusing. Due to this misunderstanding, clients may harm their interests by either failing to understand how the process works at the time of their divorce or by unnecessarily waiting to file when they are no longer able to cover their alimony or child support obligations.
Clients should be aware they cannot base their allegations in a modification action on any changes that occurred prior to the date the final judgment and decree of divorce was issued. Without this requirement, the parties could simply re-litigate their divorce indefinitely. For example, if a client lost his or her job (which would change any child support obligation in a child support worksheet) prior to the date he or she signs the settlement agreement in a divorce, he or she cannot later modify the agreement based on the job loss. For this reason, it is incredibly important to have an attorney represent you during your divorce (even if it is uncontested). If you sign a settlement agreement and later have problems, Georgia law places several limits on the ability to modify the agreement.
Many times clients believe they cannot modify their child support obligation until two years after the date of their final judgment and decree for divorce. Georgia law places some time limits on parties filing for a modification; however, it states a claimant cannot file for a modification within two years of a prior modification, not two years from the divorce action itself. Nevertheless, there are a few other exceptions to this rule which are beyond the scope of this post. Contact our office for more information.
Another limit to a petition for modification is whether there has been a “change in circumstances” sufficient to necessitate a change in a child support or alimony obligation. Merely alleging a change in income is insufficient to meet this requirement. A client must also demonstrate to the court his or her inability to pay or some other change in financial status which occurred since the date of the final decree of divorce.
If you have any questions about how to modify or defend against your ex-spouse who is attempting to modify his or her child support or alimony obligation, please contact our Forsyth County law office. This information is for general information purposes only.
Source: Dan E. McConaughey, Georgia Divorce, Alimony & Child Custody, 2011-2012 Ed., West.