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Marital Issues When Medical Problems Arise

Modifications of Alimony, Support or Custody

As we have discussed above, judges and courts retain the power, by virtue of the state jurisdictional laws to make orders ,after a dissolution of marriage, when there is a reason for doing so. Typically, these orders are made after formal requests for changes in orders are filed. Usually any changes are made by judges after proceedings, specified by state law, called Orders to Show Cause (OSC). A judge will usually summons both parties into court, usually on the request of one party who is requesting a change in an order made earlier in the divorce proceedings. One common example is where a court is being petitioned by one spouse to change the amount paid as child support to a higher level. The moving party must present evidence and reasons, which are allowed by the states' laws, as to why the new amount should be paid by the other spouse. The other party typically makes the claim that no such change is warranted and the reasons why are set forth in their brief. The court then, in a variety of forms, may hear more evidence, ask for additional information, receive testimony from one or more witnesses, all with an eye toward making an informed, and legally sound, decision to change or not change the former order of the court.

If you receive notice that a former spouse is returning to court to modify an order of the court in some manner and you oppose this change, you must respond. In responding you must follow the court procedures and file your papers in the manner prescribed by the state court. These cases are most often too complicated to handle without the assistance of a lawyer. The difficulty is not in the intellectual part or in understanding the law. Usually the problem arises in knowing and following the correct procedures and in presenting your case in the manner expected by the judge in the case. Thus, it is advisable to obtain the assistance of a lawyer as soon as possible after receiving the notice. Delay will only serve to undermine the merits of any legal position which you may have.

Our Hypothetical: What is the impact of the accident if you were to receive an OSC after three years from the date the divorce was final? Depending upon what the OSC sought, the accident may be either significant or insignificant. If the father's paralysis was somewhat rehabilitated and a meaningful job paying some $40,000 per year was obtained, the wife may be seeking to have the husband pay more in alimony and/or child support. She might petition the court and present evidence that in the marital settlement agreement, no provision for alimony or child support was made because the husband was not expected to make a recovery and hold a job. Her evidence of the new job, despite the handicap, might make a judge change the amounts of the alimony or child support or to make an award of one or both, where none was provided for earlier.

On the other hand the husband, who was unable to convince the judge during the divorce that he would never work again, may petition the court to show a judge that after three years the ward of child support or alimony has left him almost destitute, and on the verge of bankruptcy. A judge, after seeing real evidence of expenses and the effect on this person, might really believe that the award of alimony or child support was too high initially, and it might be ordered to be lowered.

These results, of course, are as predictable as the weather. In fact, no two courts would even act exactly alike. Thus, while this discussion has been an informational discussion, the best real advice is to retain a qualified lawyer who knows how to help you.

Marital Issues When Medical Problems Arise
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