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Substantial Change in Circumstances

What does the term “Substantial Change in Circumstances” mean?

If parties have an existing support or custody judgment, unless both parties agree to change the terms of the judgment, one of the parties must prove to the court that there has been a “substantial change of circumstances” that justify modifying an existing and valid judgment.  Such a standard has been set because the court favors stability and continuity in valid judgments and agreements. If there were no standard to modify custody or support judgments, family courts would be flooded with parents wanting to change the terms of their agreements without there being a true need for the change. Thus, the requesting party must show that a change is justified.

Common “substantial changes in circumstances” may include: a loss or gain of employment, a sudden change in either party’s finances, a relocation of the parties or children, a death, a change in the child’s wishes, etc. These are just a few examples of common changes of circumstances that warrant a modification of a judgment. This list however is not exhaustive and determining whether a change to a judgment should be granted is a question of fact that will depend on the facts of each individual case.

Modifying an existing custody or support judgment can be complicated and time consuming. Because such issues are also of vast importance, it is best to hire an experienced attorney who can help guide you through these difficult times. For more information on child custody and child support, please call our office at (619) 284-4113 to set up your free consultation, or click here.