Modification of Child Custody, Child Support and Spousal Support – Wyoming Family Law Attorney

Retaining an experienced Wyoming Family Law Attorney to guide you through a divorce or paternity action often results in settlements and final decrees that are more balanced and stable.  Parties engaged in family law disputes should aggressively pursue a settlement or judgment containing mutually acceptable terms that lessen the risk of incurring future costs with repeated trips back to court seeking modifications. 

Modification of the terms of child custody, visitation or spousal support set out in a divorce decree is more difficult than obtaining, in the first instance, proper and appropriate terms when originally seeking the divorce decree.  A divorce decree is entitled to a measure of finality. As a result, to modify the divorce decree, the court must find that there has been a material change of circumstances.  The changed circumstances should be significant or substantial. A minor change in living arrangements for one parent will not typically constitute a material change in circumstances justifying a change of custody or visitation. This threshold showing is rooted in public policy that seeks stability and finality with respect to court orders.

Modification of Child Custody and Visitation

If the parents reach an agreement that is different than the divorce decree's terms, then the agreement itself may represent a material change of circumstances. While an agreement to modify custody or visitation will carry weight with the judge, it remains the case that the judge must apply the standard of the “best interests of the children" and independently assess whether a modification is warranted as serving the best interests of the children.

The judge will not modify a judgment in a custody case simply because one of the parents contends that such a change would be in the child’s best interest.  The custody and visitation arrangements in a divorce decree are presumed to be in the best interest of the child.  Before a judge can consider modifying a divorce decree (or paternity judgment) by changing the provisions for custody or visitation, the court must first consider the circumstances which will vary widely from case to case. Some examples of changed circumstances that will commonly result in a modification of a custody or visitation provision include:

  • Physical abuse or neglect by either parent
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol by a parent
  • Child endangerment (e.g. DUI with a child in the car)
  • Contemplated parental relocation (current custody schedule unworkable)

Modification of Child Support

As with other modifications, child support can be modified if there has been a material change in circumstances.  Typically, this change will be a significant change in the income of either parent or a shift in custody.  Wyoming Child Support Law Firm Arnold Law Offices, PLLC, can advise you regarding the potential benefit of such a modification by running a calculation based on the current income and parenting schedule.

Spousal Support Modifications

Although a material change in circumstances can justify a modification of alimony, this type of modification might be more complicated if long-term or permanent alimony has been awarded.  While the retirement of a spouse or financial hardships of dealing with an ongoing disability might seem like it would justify a modification, for example, this is not necessarily the case.  If the disability existed at the time of the original order or an imminent retirement was reasonably anticipated, these situations might not justify a modification even though one spouse has experienced a substantial change in income.  If the change of income was reasonably foreseeable at the time of the judgment, the court might determine that the original award was based in part on the pending retirement or existing disability. 

If you have questions or concerns about modifying a divorce decree or paternity judgment, Wyoming Family Law Firm Arnold Law Offices can evaluate your chances and diligently protect your rights.