How Do Divorce Modifications Work?

by Attorney Christopher E. Heberg

1. Modification. While you should not act contrary to your Decree or Court Order without consulting your attorney, it is possible that the agreement you originally made regarding child support, custody and division of property is no longer functional. Please also do not wait if you believe there has been a substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification of you agreement. It is important for you to contact your attorney immediately so that they can begin protecting your rights as soon as possible. Please note that certain portions of a Property Settlement Agreements are not modifiable, and that may include alimony and property division.

2. Contempt. If you owe child support and cannot pay, please be certain to contact your attorney immediately. The sooner they can take steps to protect you, the better. If you are owed support, you should wait approximately two (2) weeks and then contact your attorney who can then take any steps necessary to protect your rights. You should never retaliate against your ex for their contempt. If you do this, your own failure to comply with the terms of the Decree may inhibit your ability to hold your ex in Contempt of Court.

3. Alimony. Be certain to consult with your attorney if you believe an event terminating alimony has occurred or may occur immanently. Please note that alimony is generally deductible to the payer and includable to the receiver’s income. You should always consult an accountant relative to these issues.

4. Child Support. Please keep in mind that in Rhode Island, child support generally lasts until eighteen (18), or the graduation from high school, but no later than the child’s nineteenth (19th) birthday. Please also keep in mind, child support is always modifiable upon a substantial change in circumstance. If you cannot pay child support, contact your attorney immediately. If you believe a change in circumstance may have occurred, contact your attorney immediately, so that they can take steps to either protect you or enforce your rights. If you wish to deviate from the Child Support Guideline and your ex agrees, do not do so without contacting your attorney so that they can be certain to protect you.

5. Custody. Please also remember that child custody is always modifiable, upon the showing of a substantial change in circumstance. As you may already know, the RI Supreme Court has set forth certain factors that must be considered in determining if child custody should change. As such, I would suggest that you consult with your attorney upon the twelfth (12th) birthday of any child. I would also suggest you consult with your attorney immediately if you believe your ex may intend to move, or has already moved. In any event, it is good to touch base periodically to discuss this matter as children’s preferences and desires relative to placement change frequently.

6. Visitation. Visitation is an area that traditionally causes considerable consternation and trouble between parties. Please try to adhere to the letter and spirit of your Decree or Order. Try to cooperate as best possible. Courts always appreciate and expect a healthy level of cooperation between parties. When you have any questions relative to visitation, consult with your Decree or Order. If you do not understand them, contact your attorney so that they can discuss this with you. Please also contact your attorney to discuss problems that arise with your visitation. You should always refrain from withholding visitation in order to retaliate against your ex for any reason.

7. Relocation. If you desire to move anywhere outside of the State of Rhode Island, please contact your attorney immediately. The RI Supreme Court has set forth very specific factors that must be considered and proved in order for you to move. This is a complicated and a lengthy undertaking and must be planned well in advance in order to ensure that you are able to move successfully. If you believe your ex is trying to move, please also contact your attorney immediately so they can steps to prevent that, if you wish the same