As experienced Long Island Divorce and Family Law attorneys, we are often contacted to help modify a Child Support Agreement or a Child Custody Agreement. Often, the people who approach us are distraught that they are bound by an agreement that does not work for them and their circumstances. This can happen for a number of reasons, including poor representation in their original agreements or a change in circumstances since the original agreements were signed.
On Long Island, which is governed by New York State laws, modifying Child Support or Custody Agreements is, by its nature, very difficult. It’s important to get it right the first time. New York State law has only a few, very strict options to modify these kinds of agreements once they are in place.
Child Support Agreements:
Child Support agreements are governed, by default, by the Child Support Standards Act. This Act is New York Statutory Law and sets forth a step-by-step formula used to determine a parent’s Child Support obligations. However, if the parents can come to an agreement without Court intervention, they are free to agree to obligations that differ from the statutory formula. Once an agreement is in place, there are only a few ways in which to change this agreement.
According to the Child Support Standards Act, an obligation may be changed for three reasons.
#1. If there is a substantial change in circumstances, such as changes in a child’s medical needs, you may petition the Court for a Modification.
#2. If three or more years have passed since the original Order was last entered, modified or adjusted you may petition the Court for a Modification.
#3. If there has been a change in either party’s gross income by 15% or more, you may petition for a Modification. If either of these three conditions are met, you have the right under New York State Law to seek a Modification of your Child Support Obligations.
Child Custody Agreements:
In order to change a Child Custody Agreement, the party seeking the modification must prove to the Court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances warranting a hearing or trial. Such a change may come in the form of a relocation, a change in the child’s medical needs, or the parents may be unable to effectively communicate or cooperate. This threshold question serves to “weed out” the petitions that are being sought for personal revenge or other emotional reasons.
After a change in circumstances has been proven, the Court will then look to the best interest of the child to determine whether a change in custody is prudent. The child’s desires become more prudent as the child gets older.
Some of the factors the Court will look to when determining if a change would be in the child’s best interests are:
- Maintaining stability for the child
- Each parent’s relative fitness
- The desires of the child
- The parent’s ability to provide for the emotional and intellectual development of the child
- Each parent’s willingness to foster a healthy relationship with the other parent
- Whether there has been a finding of abuse or neglect
If the Court determines a change in custody would be within the child’s best interest, such a change will be made.
Contact an Experienced Long Island Divorce Lawyer to Modifying Your Child Support or Child Custody Agreement
In modifying either a Child Support or Child Custody Agreement, it is very important to have an experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney represent your interests. Support and Custody matters can be very complex and difficult to navigate unless you understand the underlying Statutory Law and Case Law. As such, if you are seeking to modify either of the Agreements mentioned above, please contact our Long Island Divorce Law firm at 631-923-1910 to set up your free consultation.
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