Parents should and are usually empowered to work it out independently. Usually, a decree is written to be in second place to whatever the parents decide. The courts will not necessarily care if you do not follow the decree as long as you’re not in conflict with each other. There are parties who never even read their decree.
There’s an enormous amount of latitude and leeway to work it out with your ex and raise your children together as you see fit. The court exists to adjudicate conflict and enforce the terms of the decree when it isn’t being followed against someone’s wishes. Some parties can agree to changes quickly and peacefully, but if one party values the new agreement, they should seriously consider getting it written down and approved by the court in case their ex’s mood changes and their ex is tempted to insist that the parties return to following the decree. Decrees can be modified by stipulation fairly painlessly. The court won’t get in the way unless the parties are trying to do some unusual things like entirely eliminate child support. For the most part, if you agree to a plan and submit it to the court, it becomes a much simpler process, and they will generally approve it.
The parties should absolutely try and work it out themselves, but if they want to engage in the best practices, they should also bring that new agreement to the court and have it ratified.
How Does Someone Get Started If They Believe They Need To File A Modification To A Child Custody Or Child Support Order?
If it’s child support, they could reach out to ORS (Office of Recovery Services) and have them get involved. ORS is usually pretty happy to start a case on modifying child support. Otherwise, a party should reach out to a family law attorney and brainstorm together on whether there has been changes in circumstance. If they can’t find any fundamental change in circumstance, they need to understand that their case is challenging. I try to give my clients sound advice. I explain why it’s so important that we get it right the first time because if they’re not happy today, there may not be an opportunity to alter their situation. A party should treat any stipulation they enter into as though it will be permanent. A party who challenges a decree merely because they regret the bargain they made might end up wasting two years of their lives fighting against their decree, only to have the court decide to affirm it and leave it completely unchanged.
That being said, every litigant is not always up against a savvy opponent. A party might bring a petition to modify with some less than stellar allegations regarding changes in circumstances. That deficiency might not be immediately noticed or pointed out. A party may still get some mileage out of a petition that might not be granted at a trial. When a Petition to Modify doesn’t allege a legitimate change in circumstances, the court is empowered to deny it right away, but won’t unless the request is made by another party. Filing a Petition to Modify is often enough to get the other party to engage in a session of mediation which can result in a new agreement that moves the needle toward the moving party, and renders the question of whether the petition would have been granted at trial moot.
In the entire litigation, the specter of dismissal hangs over the petitioner’s head. If the change in circumstance they have alleged is weak, it may still be worth raising if it gives that party the potential opportunity to improve their situation.
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