A final judgment of divorce generally symbolizes the finalization of a divorce proceeding. The spouses are officially classified as divorced by the courts and custody issues are concluded. Marital property is divided and ongoing support obligations are set in place. From this point forward, the ex-spouses are responsible for following the orders of the court. However, quite often life’s circumstances do not fall in line with the details of the court order. One party may lose employment or decide to remarry. When these situations occur, you may need to call on the courts to modify the support details of the final judgment.
The Modification Process
In the state of Illinois, the process starts with a filing to request a modification from the court. You must serve your ex-spouse with a copy of the filing, to enable him or her to file a response. Once the allotted answer time ends, a hearing is scheduled. Under state statute, the motioning party must prove that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred. This threshold can prove challenging to meet and the services of a qualified attorney can be helpful in this endeavor. If the court finds that the burden is met, the details of the final decree are officially modified and the new conditions take effect as a court order. If the burden is not met, the final divorce decree remains in place.
Changes in the Payer’s Circumstances
A common change in the circumstances of the payer is a loss of income after divorce. This may stem from a loss of employment or some other financial hardship where the payer’s assets substantially decline. If the new income level is inadequate to pay the court ordered amount of alimony, the court may order a reduction in the alimony amount or terminate the obligation altogether. To successfully present your case to the court, you need to present evidence about your change in income. You can achieve this with:
- pay stubs;
- bank account statements;
- a statement of termination of employment;
- documentation of bankruptcy; and/or
- documentation about loss of assets.
Changes in Payee’s Circumstances
Circumstances in a payee’s circumstances can also lead to a modification of support payments. If you learn that your ex-spouse is remarried or cohabitating with another individual, you may ask the courts to terminate your spousal support obligation. Under Illinois state law, alimony terminates when an ex-spouse cohabitates on a conjugal basis. However, support does not automatically terminate. You must file a motion with the court and prove that the relationship exists. This is done by showing:
- the amount of time that the ex-spouse has been in the new relationship;
- the types of activities in which the new couple engages;
- evidence of vacations and holidays they spend together; and
- the intertwining of the couple’s affairs.
If you are seeking to modify your alimony obligation, contact a divorce attorney at the Law Office of Elizabeth J. Chacko, P.C. for a consultation about the merits of your case. Serving clients in Naperville, Wheaton, and Downers Grove, our skilled lawyers are available to assist with all of your divorce and custody needs.