If you recently divorced, resolved a child custody dispute, or completed any other type of family court case in St. Louis, the finalization of your family court order can feel like the beginning of a new phase of your life. However, it’s important to remember that this may not be the end of your legal issue. Most family court cases ultimately lead to subsequent legal proceedings months or even years after a family court order has been finalized.
The modification process is commonly used in response to recent life events. The loss of a job, an unexpected catastrophic injury, or a death in the family could all potentially influence a family court order. When you can no longer abide by the terms of your court order due to forces beyond your control, you have the right to request a reasonable change to reflect these new circumstances.
How to Change a Family Court Order
Unlike other areas of law, family law in Missouri provides a vehicle for changing a standing court order. When a party wishes to contest the ruling of a criminal or civil case, they typically must go through a very challenging appeal process. Due to the inherently personal nature of most family court cases and the fact that life can present unpredictable challenges to anyone at any time, the family court of Missouri allows for an easier path to change the terms of a standing court order.
The modification process is relatively straightforward, and when your needed change is both reasonable and visibly necessary to all parties involved, it’s possible to secure the changes you need relatively quickly. You can request a change to your child custody terms, the terms of your child support agreement, or details of your alimony agreement. Some petitions are granted at their first hearings. If there are no challenges to the requested change and it’s deemed reasonable by all parties involved, the judge might approve it with immediate effect, and the family court order is changed accordingly.
If you believe that recent life events have influenced a standing family court order to the degree that you believe the order needs to be revised, an experienced attorney is the best asset to have in this effort. Your attorney can help you file a petition for modification that’s highly likely to succeed. Should you encounter any unexpected disputes against your desired change, they can help you determine the best options for addressing them.
Penalties for Violating Family Court Orders in Missouri
Unfortunately, some individuals intentionally disobey the terms of their family court orders, and others fail to fulfill their obligations due to negligence or other issues, but ultimately, any willful violation of a family court order can lead to contempt of court and severe penalties. If you are found to have intentionally violated the terms of your family court order, you face various penalties that can negatively impact your life in various ways.
In the event you believe another party, such as an ex-spouse or co-parent, has intentionally violated the terms of your family court order, you should consult an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. They can assist you in addressing the matter effectively, which may entail filing contempt proceedings against the party in violation as well as a petition for modification to reflect the other party’s behavior.
Depending on the scope and severity of a family court order violation, the party in question could face a host of penalties. If their violation pertains to failure or refusal to pay child support and/or alimony, they could have their assets seized and wages garnished until they have repaid their back support. If they committed any form of child abuse, parental kidnapping, or domestic violence, the court may strip them of any child custody or visitation rights they previously held, and they will likely face prosecution by the state.
It is never worth risking the penalties for violating a family court order. If anything has recently changed in your life that prevents you from abiding by the terms of your standing family court order, you must speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to explore modification as a potential solution.
Q: Can I Petition for Modification of My Child Support Order?
A: If you are legally required to pay child support, it’s vital to follow the instructions provided in your order to the letter. However, your terms were decided using your financial details at the time the order was implemented. If your employment situation changes due to forces beyond your control, this would impact your ability to continue abiding by the terms of your order. As long as the reason for your desired change is a serious issue outside of your control, you likely have the right to file your petition.
Q: What Does Not Qualify for Modification in Missouri?
A: If you are legally required to pay child support and/or alimony, you cannot quit your job and then file a petition for modification claiming you cannot afford your obligation. The reason for your requested change must be material to the terms of your family court order and caused by forces beyond your control. If you are unsure whether a recent change in your life would justify a petition for modification, it’s best to consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Q: How Long Does the Modification Process Take in St. Louis?
A: It’s possible to resolve a modification petition with just one hearing if it’s uncontested and focused on a reasonable change. More contested modification petitions may require multiple sessions to resolve. All parties involved in the order in question have the right to present evidence and offer testimony in resolving a modification dispute in St. Louis family court.
Q: Do I Need to Hire an Attorney for a Family Court Order Modification Petition?
A: It’s technically possible to file your petition for modification without an attorney, and you may even manage to secure your desired changes without legal counsel. However, you are far more likely to succeed with your petition when you have an experienced family lawyer assisting you. They can help you draft your petition and prepare any arguments you may need to present to counter protests against your desired change.
If you have further questions about the modification process in the St. Louis family court system, contact an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your situation.