In the area of family law, there may be a number of issues that require revisiting after the completion of the divorce or other family law matter. Collectively, these are known as “post-judgment matters,” and may involve modifications of parenting time, custody, spousal maintenance, or child support or enforcement of court orders or prior agreements. When an individual chooses a New York family law attorney, it is always a good idea to choose an attorney who will be with the case throughout the entire process—even when that includes post-judgment matters. These matters arise more often than most people realize. After all, circumstances change in life. People remarry, get new jobs, lose jobs, have changes in their financial circumstances, and move out of the city—or out of the state.
One parent could develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol, or there could be allegations of abuse or neglect. A serious illness could strike one of the parties, making it difficult or impossible to continue to meet his or her child support or spousal support obligations. Even asset division in a divorce could require revisiting if it is later found that one spouse hid assets during the divorce. In some cases, divorce issues arise that require further negotiation or litigation, or modifications may be warranted when circumstances have substantially changed. In other cases, the original orders remain the best for a spouse or the children, but the other party is not following the court’s orders, therefore, enforcement may be necessary.
Common Post-Judgment Family Law Modifications
There are many post-judgment matters that can greatly benefit from having an experienced attorney involved. No two matters are exactly the same, because each family is unique. Some of the primary post-judgment family law modification commonly seen include:
- Modifications of child custody
- Modifications of child support
- Modifications of spousal support
- Modifications of parenting time
It can be difficult to modify a judgment or agreement under New York law, without having an experienced New York attorney who understands the laws and the situation. Perhaps the spouse paying spousal support has recently had a serious medical issue or has had to take a lower-paying job. Or, perhaps the spouse receiving support came into a significant inheritance. Any number of issues could potentially warrant a modification of a prior order, however, the person asking for the modification must be able to clearly show that a significant change in circumstances has occurred and that because of the change, a modification is necessary.
Judges who make the original decisions cannot possibly predict everything that could potentially happen in the lives of those who come before them, so they must rule on the current situation and circumstances. Although those involved in the family law matter are legally obligated to follow the court’s ruling—even when circumstances change—they are allowed to ask for a post-judgment modification. It is important to remember, however, that even when circumstances change, the original ruling must be followed until a new ruling is handed down. Doing otherwise could result in significant penalties. In fact, when a court order is ignored—even when a post-judgment modification has been filed—under New York law, the violator could face wage garnishment, charges of contempt of court, and even denial of a passport.
Post-Judgment Enforcement in Family Law Matters
If a spouse who has been ordered to pay spousal support or child support in the state of New York stops paying, it could be necessary at some point to return to court to have the original order enforced. Of course, there are many reasons people fall behind on court-ordered payments. Perhaps the paying spouse lost his or her job, suffered a medical issue, or was forced into early retirement. It is equally possible the paying spouse simply tired of making the payments or didn’t feel his or her ex was entitled to the payments.
When an ex-spouse stops making court-ordered payments, the first step should be finding out why. If it turns out the individual is truly incapable of making the payments, it could be time to work out an agreement between the two parties, which allows for reduced or suspended payments for a designated period of time. In most cases, it is a better idea to have an attorney draft the agreement to ensure the rights of the receiving spouse are fully protected.
If the paying spouse is just attempting to dodge his or her obligations, it will most certainly require a return to court. A motion will need to be filed with the court, asking the judge to order the paying spouse to make the overdue payments and continue to keep up with the regular payments. This could be called a motion for enforcement or a contempt motion. Once the issue is before the judge, he or she has a lot of discretion in terms of punishments or fines, which can be imposed on delinquent spouses.
The judge could garnish the spouse’s wages and tax refunds and could even confiscate rent or profit from any real estate the paying spouse owns, applying that money toward spousal support. If the paying spouse happens to be self-employed, wage garnishment would be difficult, however, the court could order the paying spouse to set up a trust account to be accessed by the receiving spouse whenever a payment is not made on time. If the paying spouse continues to disobey the judge’s order, the spouse could potentially spend time in jail.
Getting the Help You Need for Post-Judgment Matters from The Law Office of Katherine Ryan, P.C.
Whether an individual is seeking a post-judgment modification or enforcement, attorney Katherine Ryan can help achieve the desired objectives. Katherine Ryan is a highly experienced New York family law attorney who can handle every aspect of any family law issue. The Law Office of Katherine Ryan, P.C., will always ensure their client’s rights are fully protected throughout the process. Offering personalized attention and dedicated representation, the attorneys at The Law Office of Katherine Ryan, P.C., will zealously represent their family law clients. Katherine Ryan represents clients in Garden City, Stewart Manor, New Hyde Park, Mineola, Huntington, Melville, Woodbury, Commack, Smithtown, Syosset, Jericho, Roslyn, and Manhasset. Contact Katherine Ryan today.