The phrase “things change” is a relatively vague and unhelpful one. Despite this, the sentiment holds true in nearly every aspect of our lives, even when it comes to the law. Though many people see the law as firm and rigid, there are many situations in which the law is as fluid as our lives are. When it comes to binding contracts, especially, there are situations where it is inappropriate to continue with the same terms and agreements after a situation has changed. It would be foolish, and in some cases illegal, to continue to follow an agreement that no longer describes a current condition. In these scenarios, it is more appropriate and honest to seek a modification. Modifications can be created for many contracts and agreements and help keep the terms active and relevant.
Reasons for Modifications
There are several reasons a person or party may want to modify an agreement. Some examples include:
- Legally changing payment amounts.
- Lengthening or shortening an existing agreement.
- To include or remove assets or goods that are included in the agreement.
- To change specifics about an agreement, such as payment dates, payment methods, proof of payment, etc.
In many cases, these modifications are doable as long as they are done correctly. This means they must be done in writing and, in many cases, must be reviewed by the courts. A good rule of thumb is that any modifications should go through the same process if the agreement were initially reviewed and approved by the courts. An attorney will be able to advise you on the appropriate modification process.
Modifications to Child Support
Child support agreements are relatively long-term, as they are usually valid until the child turns 18. During this long period, it is perfectly reasonable for the financial situation of one or both of the child’s parents to change. Because child support agreements take parental income into account, it is ethical and appropriate to reassess the agreement when those incomes change. If the parent with full custody has an income increase, the other parent’s contributions may go down. If the contributing parent’s income increases, the amount may go up. The specific modifications are situational and will depend on what has changed. These are some examples of changes that may make a child support modification appropriate:
- Change in the income of one or both of the parents.
- Change to custody agreements.
- Addition of a child to a contributing parent’s household.
- New expenses for the child.
- Cost of living increase.
Though these are certainly not the only situations that can be grounds for a child support modification, they represent many of the cases that occur.
Modifications to Spousal Support
Similar to child support, spousal support agreement terms can be changed when circumstances change. However, the criteria for spousal support adjustments are a bit different. Spousal support agreements are created to ensure that the lower-earning member of a former couple can live comfortably after a divorce. If this goal is achieved through other means, spousal support may be unnecessary, and the agreement may be dissolved. Some situations that could alter or stop spousal support include:
- The receiving spouse begins to live with a significant other or remarries.
- The receiving spouse gets a pay increase or a new job that pays them more than what they were making at the time of divorce.
- The paying spouse loses their job or receives a reduction in pay.
- The paying spouse becomes disabled or otherwise unable to work.
In many cases, spousal support agreements end before any of these things occur. However, several spousal support agreements are indefinite. In these cases, it is common to encounter one of the above criteria that can call for a modification in the agreement.
It may seem counterintuitive, but prenuptial agreements can be modified after they have been made and the couple has been married. There are several scenarios in which a prenuptial agreement may be changed. This includes:
- Individual acquisition of land or funds that was not in their possession at the time of the agreement.
- The couple would like to redistribute their assets.
- The couple would like to dissolve their prenuptial agreement.
- The couple would like to account for children who were not yet born at the time of the prenuptial agreement.
These changes can help distribute a couple’s assets better if they should divorce and ensure that the contract continues to cover their situation accurately.
An Attorney Is Required
Changes to any contract or agreement are not enforceable without the involvement of an attorney and, often, the courts. Though many people make informal agreement changes on their own, there is no way to legally enforce new terms if they aren’t done through the proper channels. This means if you and your child’s other parent decide that child support payment amounts should change, and suddenly they stop adhering to your new terms, there is no way to force them to pay the amount agreed upon between the two of you. However, if it goes through the proper legal channels, you can take them to court to demand appropriate payments, and they will have to oblige. It is safer, in all situations, to hire a trusted attorney to make modifications. Because contract law is so complicated and confusing, it is easy to make mistakes when creating new terms. You may find that your desired changes are impossible or even illegal. It is better to find a creative solution rather than try to enforce an unenforceable contract.
Stange Law Firm Has the Experience You Need
For nearly 20 years, the attorneys at Stange Law Firm have been overseeing contract and agreement modifications of all kinds. Because we have a wide umbrella of knowledge, we can help you navigate any contract changes with ease and ensure that all changes are legally sound and enforceable. No matter what kind of situation you are in, we are here to help you adjust to your changing lifestyle. Contact us today for a consultation.