What is a Substantial Change in Circumstances?

When a divorce is finalized, the judge issues final orders that both parties must follow. However, certain things may change in a person’s life that may impact the orders. 

In Illinois and in other states throughout the country, an individual may modify child custody, child support, or spousal support order if there is a “substantial change in circumstances.” Keep in mind, the division of assets cannot be modified.  

Unless both parties agree to change the terms of a court order, one party must prove in court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances to justify the modification. At the hearing, both parties will have an opportunity to present their side of the case and a judge will determine whether to grant a modification or not. If a case involves children, the court will also consider the child’s best interests. 

When it comes to child support orders, a substantial change may include: 

  • A substantial decrease in the paying parent’s income (e.g., job loss, demotion, disability, etc.) 

  • A significant increase in the paying parent’s income (e.g., new job, raise, etc.) 

  • The child has reached 18 years old and has graduated or dropped out of high school 

  • The child requires more support due to a disability 

  • The child has become self-supporting and moved out of the parent’s home 

  • The child gets married, joins, the military, or becomes emancipated 

Regarding child custody and visitation, a substantial change may include: 

  • The custodial parent wishes to relocate (i.e., move away) with the child (e.g., new job opportunity, more support from family members, better education, etc.) 

  • The custodial parent is no longer fit to provide for the child’s physical, emotional, and mental needs 

  • A parent has remarried to or is cohabitating with another person 

  • A parent is providing an unsafe or unsuitable environment for the child 

  • A parent has been abusing alcohol or drugs 

  • A parent has abused the child 

  • The child’s wishes (depending on his/her age) 

Substantial changes in circumstances to affect spousal support orders include: 

  • Change of employment status of either party 

  • Increase or decrease in either party’s income since the divorce was finalized 

  • The receiving spouse’s efforts to become self-supporting 

  • Property acquired and currently owned by each party since the divorce was finalized 

  • Tax consequences of support payments regarding the economic circumstances of both parties 

If you are interested in modifying a current court order in Chicago, you need an experienced family law attorney to help you prove your case and obtain the most favorable outcome in court. At the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C., we will take the time to fully understand your situation, determine all your legal options, and guide you through each step of the process. 

Interested in modification in Chicago? Call us at (312) 487-2795 or fill out our online contact form today to schedule an initial consultation. 

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