You and your spouse split up five years ago. The judge instructed you to pay child support, while your ex got custody of the kids. You still see them a lot and spend time with them on the weekends, and you’re happy to pay to help cover the cost of raising them. For five years, everything went well, and you didn’t have any problems.
Now, though, an emergency has thrown your entire life into chaos. You got hurt in a car accident, so you can’t work. You’re stuck in the hospital and have a lot of bills to cover. You know you’ll get through it all, get another job – or start your old job back up again – and be able to make the payments. Right now, though, there’s just no way to make it all work. Can you get a temporary modification?
Modifications to custody and support can be made on a temporary basis. They don’t have to last forever, but they can help give you some relief when it’s necessary.
Maybe you just need two months with lower payments, for instance. By then, doctors project that you’ll finish rehab and see a clean bill of health. The accident wasn’t your fault, so you’re going to seek compensation for your medical bills. You’re not looking at a permanent disability, so you should be back in the workforce. After two months with the reduced payments, you fully plan to ramp things back up to normal.
You also want to change your custody agreement. While you heal, you’re not going to be able to care for your kids. Again, you think that will change in about eight weeks and you’d like to see them more often as soon as you can.
People are often worried to ask for these types of changes. They’re concerned that any change is permanent and that they could wind up giving up their rights to see the kids – or they worry about accidentally giving up rights to full support payments.
Don’t worry — the courts understand that emergencies happen
You can ask for permanent changes if they’re warranted, but any change doesn’t have to last forever. In fact, the court may be more likely to grant you a temporary change because then it’s clear that you’re not trying to shirk your duties, to get out of paying for the children or taking care of them. You just have circumstances that are out of your control that are getting in the way. You need a reprieve, but you don’t want your permanent parental rights and obligations to change.
The key is to fully understand all of your legal options, including short-term modifications to custody and support. Working with your ex, you can find a solution that makes sense and still puts the kids first. Remember, throughout the whole process, doing what is best for the children should be your primary focus.