Modifications Divorce Decrees
North Atlanta Divorce Attorney
No divorce decree or settlement agreement can possibly anticipate everything that might happen to you, your ex-spouse, or your children following a divorce. Sometimes circumstances change, and you are unable to continue complying with a court order regarding alimony, child custody (including visitation), or child support.
If you find yourself in this situation, you need to know your options regarding modifications of court orders. Our Sandy Springs divorce lawyer can help.
Modification of Court Orders
It is not permissible to just ignore or otherwise disregard the order of a court. Support orders will not be modified retroactively. Moreover, even if you modify with your ex-spouse by agreement, if the new agreement is not made into an Order of the Court, neither party must comply.
Additionally, where child support is involved, a parent is not permitted to waive a child’s right to support. Therefore, the receiving parent may be remiss in looking out for the best interests of the children by forgiving a child support obligation, and the support remains owed anyway.
In Georgia, whether you are seeking to modify an order for custody, alimony, or child support, you must show the following. There has been an order of the Court that you now wish to modify. This is the first time you are seeking to modify the order since it was entered OR that it has been at least two years of the last order of modification that was entered for you (this is not necessarily true where modification of custody is involved. The Judge can even modify custody on the Court’s own motion).
- For custody: There has been a material change in circumstance that affects the best interests of the child(ren), or the custodial parent is moving out of the jurisdiction of the Court or has otherwise become unfit, or a child has reached the age of election and has elected to live with the non-custodial parent;
- For alimony: There has been a material change in the financial circumstances of either of the parties that occurred since the entry of the last order of modification such that a modification would be warranted;
- For modification of child support: There has been a material change in either the financial situation and/or the custodial situation such the best interest of the children and the totality of circumstances would warrant a modification.
Judgments may be modified for a temporary term because of a temporary situation, or on a permanent basis.
Modification of Alimony under Georgia’s “Live-in Lover” Law
My ex has a new love. Can I quit paying alimony?
Jerry is gleeful – at least for the moment. Two years ago, he and his long-time spouse, Suzie, divorced. Jerry was ordered to pay Suzie a boodle of alimony, and every month he would say to himself, “I wish Suzie would get a boyfriend so I could quit paying her all this alimony.” Now it finally happened. Jerry read on Suzie’s Facebook page that she is dating, and a friend told him that her new love has spent the night. Hurrah?
Well, it’s not necessarily that simple. Let’s look at what Georgia’s “live-in lover” statute, O.C.G.A. § 19-6-19 (b), has to says:
“Subsequent to a final judgment of divorce awarding periodic payment of alimony for the support of a spouse, the voluntary cohabitation of such former spouse with a third party in a meretricious relationship shall also be grounds to modify provisions made for periodic payments of permanent alimony for the support of the former spouse. As used in this subsection, the word “cohabitation” means dwelling together continuously and openly in a meretricious relationship with another person, regardless of the sex of the other person.”
The statute also provides that if you file a “live-in lover” complaint and you fail to prove your case, you have to pay reasonable attorney’s fees of the other side as well as your own attorney’s fees.
Therefore, this is not a case that one should bring without a genuine, reasonable belief that there is sufficient evidence to win.
Let’s get back to the statute. In Georgia, Jerry would only have grounds to modify (not necessarily terminate) the alimony he pays if he can prove by a preponderance of the evidence:
- Voluntary cohabitation (defined as continuously and openly dwelling together akin to marriage – not secretively or periodically)
- A meretricious relationship (defined as either having sexual intercourse or continuously sharing the expenses of cohabitation)
Both elements must be proven, not just one or another. Even a full admission that there has been occasional sexual intercourse does not give rise to a modification under this statute unless the cohabitation piece is proven.
Additionally, as in other modification cases, Jerry would have to prove this new condition arose after the final judgment in the case was entered.
Let Our North Atlanta Family Lawyer Help You
What is set out above is not intended to be a comprehensive guide in any way. Modification actions are complex. If you think that you would be eligible to modify an order of alimony or child support, the best thing to do is discuss your specific circumstances with us. We can provide clarity.
Contact us at (404) 418-4006 today to schedule a consultation.