It is not uncommon for fathers in the United States to feel disenfranchised by the family court system. Over the past several decades, fathers have been at a disadvantage in many family court proceedings due to an outdated belief that fathers best serve their children as breadwinners while mothers are more suitable caregivers. Unfortunately, this belief causes many fathers approaching divorce and child custody hearings to feel defeated before their cases truly begin.
Fathers across the country should know that legal attitudes are changing regarding the outdated gender roles assigned to men and women. As more family courts in the US recognize that fathers are just as capable caregivers as mothers and mothers can be breadwinners, too, judgments have become more equitable than ever before. However, if you are a father who has recently obtained a family court order that you believe hinges on outdated beliefs, it is important to know your options.
What Is a Post-Judgment Motion?
In civil law, the court order issued at the conclusion of a case is permanent unless one of the parties appeals the decision. The appeals process typically requires presenting a lower court’s decision to a higher court in the hope that the higher court will review and overturn the decision. This is a time-consuming and complicated process. Typically, a higher court will only overturn a lower court’s decision if there is clear evidence of legal malpractice or other malfeasance that had a material effect on the outcome of the case.
Family law does not have a complex appeal process like this. Most family law orders include terms and conditions based on the factors present at the time these orders were issued. As a result, the court understands that changing factors in one’s life can effectively render these orders untenable. The post-judgment modification process allows you to propose a change to an existing family court order to ensure the order reflects recent changes in your life.
How Does the Modification System Work?
Filing a post-judgment motion is a relatively straightforward process if you have legal help. Consult with your family law attorney to determine whether you have acceptable grounds to file your post-judgment motion. Your attorney will help you draft the petition for modification and submit it to the court, which will then set a hearing date. During the hearing, the parties involved can discuss the motive behind the motion and whether the motion is logical and reasonable.
The party filing the post-judgment motion should gather as much information as possible to support the requested modification. Some of the most common reasons to file a post-judgment motion include:
- A sudden change in personal finances makes it impossible to pay alimony or child support. The filer must provide clear evidence that the recent change was out of their control and the suggested change is reasonable under their new circumstances.
- An unexpected medical emergency. For example, if a noncustodial father were paying child support and suffers a catastrophic injury in a car accident caused by someone else, the father could file a post-judgment motion to alter his custody and support obligations.
- Altering a child support agreement due to misuse of child support funds. Child support exists to provide for a child’s basic living expenses. If one parent discovers that the other has misused child support payments and neglected to provide for their children’s basic needs, this could be grounds to argue for increased custody rights. In addition, the child support recipient could face criminal penalties.
- Altering a child support agreement to meet a child’s increased need. If a child starts daycare or develops a medical condition, support needs may increase by a significant margin.
- Newly discovered evidence that could not have been reasonably revealed prior to finalization. If evidence could materially alter the terms of the order but was not discovered during the initial hearing, a parent could request a post-judgment motion to consider it.
These are just a few possible examples of the possible grounds one could cite for filing a post-judgment motion. If you believe that a recent event or newly discovered information alters the nature of an existing family court order, consult your attorney as soon as possible to inquire about your rights.
Potential Modifications to Your Family Court Order
Post-judgment motions in family court typically pertain to child support and child custody. Some of the possible modifications a father can make to their family court orders through post-judgment modification include:
- Increasing a child support payment amount to meet a child’s increased need
- Decreasing child support payment amounts to account for financial instability
- Termination of child support obligations once a child is emancipated
- Altering the existing custody agreement to reflect a change in circumstances
- Termination of alimony to an ex-spouse who has committed a terminating action
If recent changes in your life or any newly discovered information affect your existing child custody order, child support order, or alimony order, it is vital to act quickly. Unfortunately, many fathers experience a sense of defeat and continue to feel beholden to unfair family court orders. However, the process is more straightforward than most people realize. An attorney can help you view your existing court order in light of your new circumstances and determine whether you have grounds to file a post-judgment motion.
Find Reliable Legal Counsel
Post-judgment motions allow parties beholden to family court orders to adjust the terms of those orders in an expedient fashion. All fathers should know their options when it comes to adjusting their custody, support, and alimony orders and the value of quality legal representation during this process.
It is critical that you take time to find reliable and experienced family law attorneys to guide you through your initial family court proceedings. In addition, an attorney can continue to provide useful advice and legal counsel should you need to re-address family court orders in the future. Establishing a solid professional relationship with a trustworthy family law attorney is one of the best ways to prepare for this eventuality. In the event something happens that drastically alters the nature of an existing family law order, you will have an attorney familiar with your case ready to assist you.