St. Petersburg Modifications & Relocations Lawyer
When divorcing couples create a marital settlement agreement or resolve a contested divorce through mediation, collaborative law or litigation, the parties and the court operate on the best information they have at the time. Agreements or court orders might be meant to last for years, taking into account any expected changes, such as when a former non-working spouse becomes self-sufficient or a child graduates from primary to secondary school. Sometimes, however, changes occur that weren’t anticipated. At these times, the existing agreement or court order doesn’t seem to work or apply anymore.
Florida law addresses these situations by allowing for marital settlement agreements or court orders to be modified, provided certain conditions exist and the proper procedures are followed. At Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., our experienced St. Petersburg modifications & relocations lawyers advise and represent clients in making changes through negotiations, mediation or collaborative law and finalizing those changes in court. If the idea of modifying an existing agreement or court order is contested, we provide strategic assistance and effective advocacy in courtroom litigation as needed.
If you or your former spouse is considering a post-divorce modification or parental relocation, call Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., for assistance in St. Petersburg and surrounding areas.
When Can Divorce Judgments Be Modified?
Courts will consider modifying their previous orders regarding alimony, child support, or child custody and time-sharing if there has been a significant change in circumstances that would justify a modification. Even if the parties initially settled these issues in a marital settlement agreement and agree on the changes, they still need to get approval from the court to make a change. If the parties agree on the modification, they can file a new plan with the court for approval. If they don’t agree, the party seeking the modification will need to file a petition in court, initiating a period of litigation and a courtroom hearing over whether the judge should or should not grant the modification.
Whether you are negotiating a change with your ex-spouse or heading into court, the St. Petersburg divorce lawyers at Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., provide strategic and capable representation. Our attorneys are also certified and experienced in alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation and collaborative law. We can advise you of your rights and explore your best options to protect your interests.
Some of the ways a significant change in circumstances can lead to modification include:
Alimony – The paying party experiences a job loss or loss of income, or the receiving party remarries or enters into a supportive relationship with another. Whether and how alimony can be modified depends on the type of alimony at issue. For example, bridge-the-gap alimony is not modifiable. Durational alimony can be modified with regard to the amount, but generally not the duration. See our page on alimony for more information on the different types of spousal support and maintenance available in Florida.
Child Custody – Rearranging child custody and time-sharing requires showing a lasting, substantial and unforeseen change in circumstances. A new medical diagnosis is one example, but an educational challenge or new extracurricular interest might also qualify. As with any legal decision involving children, the court will only consider a modification if it is ultimately considered to be in the best interests of the children.
Child Support – A change in the income (up or down) of either parent, as well as a change in the needs or expenses of the children, could warrant a modification of child support.
It is not uncommon for people to want or need to move at some point after a divorce. They might get a new job or desire to make a fresh start in a new location. They might move to be closer to supportive family members or to get a better school for their kids. When the person wanting to move shares custody of the children with his or her ex-spouse, however, special rules apply. Parents who want to move must first get the agreement of their former spouse or approval from the court. Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., can help in this process, whether you are the moving or non-moving parent.
Brief moves or moves within a certain short distance don’t necessarily require approval from the court or the other parent. Florida law defines a relocation as a change in the location of the parent’s principal residence from their residence when the time-sharing order was established or last modified. To qualify as a relocation requiring court approval, the move must last for at least 60 consecutive days and be at least 50 miles from the former residence.
The two methods for obtaining permission to relocate are Relocation by Agreement and Relocation by Petition. Our family law and divorce attorneys can help you reach agreement through informal negotiations, family law mediation or collaborative family law, and we can also represent you in court in a Relocation by Petition proceeding, whether you are the petitioner or the respondent. In Relocation by Agreement, we’ll help you modify the time-sharing schedule as needed and make sure all essential topics are addressed, such as how the relocation affects transportation for custody exchanges or visitation.
Parents make a big mistake if they relocate without getting permission from the other parent or approval from the court. An unauthorized relocation can harm their position regarding custody and time-sharing and even expose them to a charge of Interference with Custody, a third-degree felony under Florida law. Be sure to get advice from an experienced Florida family law attorney before making any move, to make sure it doesn’t count as a relocation that needs prior approval.
Help With Modifications and Relocations in St. Petersburg
For help with a post-divorce modification or parental relocation in St. Petersburg and surrounding areas, call Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., to speak with a knowledgeable and experienced divorce and family law attorney.