Minnesota Modification of Decrees or Other Court Orders
A modification of a divorce decree in Minnesota is a court order altering the terms of the original divorce decree due to a change in circumstances of the parties. The most common modifications are those pertaining to child custody, parenting time, child support, and spousal support.
To modify child custody, parenting time, child support, or spousal support, a motion is filed with the court. Many decrees require parties to attend mediation or other alternative dispute resolution before filing a motion, so be sure to check your decree for that before filing a motion. A motion to modify parenting time or custody usually includes a request to modify child support as custody and parenting time usually has a direct bearing on support.
Reasons Child Custody May Be Modified in Minnesota
“Physical Custody” is a legal term that refers to with which parent the child resides. “Legal Custody” refers to who gets to make the major decisions about a child’s life. If a parent wishes to change the legal arrangement from joint physical or legal custody to sole custody or visa versa, that is called changing “custody.” This is different from modifying “parenting time” which is a minor adjustment to the child’s weekly or monthly schedule with each parent.
While child custody can be modified in Minnesota, the process can be difficult. The court first takes the best interest of the child, or children, into account. Then it focuses on child custody modification standards to determine if a custody modification is proper.
The parent seeking custody modification must be able to prove the following to the court:
- There has been a significant change in circumstances of the parties or child;
- The change occurred after the original order was entered (or was unknown at the time of the original custody order);
- A custody modification must be made to serve the child’s best interests.
In addition, the parent requesting the modification must be able to prove to the court one of the following additional factors:
- The child’s present environment endangers the child’s physical or emotional health or impairs the child’s emotional development, and the harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantage of the change to the child;
- The child has been integrated into the family of the petitioning parent with the consent of the other party;
- Both parties agree to the modification; or
- The court denied a request of the primary custodial parent to move the residence of the child to another state, and the primary custodial parent has relocated to another state despite the court’s order.
Modification of Parenting Time and Child Support in Minnesota
The court ultimately looks to the best interests of the child when modifying parenting time. The standards are not as strict as for modifying custody; however, a motion is still filed, and a hearing is held. This holds true so long as the requested modifications do not restrict the parenting time of the other parent or change the primary residence of the child.
Child support may be modified if a parent has a substantial increase or decrease in income or expenses for the child that makes the original child support order unfair. That threshold of what is “significant” is a change that results in a support number that is both $75 and 20% higher or lower than the original order.
Another reason to modify child support is if overnights change substantially. Calculating the number of overnights is not always easy to determine. Use the chart below to help you figure out how many overnights your child spends with you.Handout-Calculating-the-Number-of-Overnights-(002)
As with the other modifications discussed, a motion and hearing are necessary to make adjustments to the original decree.
REMEMBER, if you and the other parent make parenting time and child support arrangements on your own, you should get it formalized into a legal order; otherwise it won’t be enforced by a court.
Modification of Spousal Support in Minnesota
“Permanent” spousal support awards are meant to continue indefinitely. But a permanent maintenance award can be terminated, suspended, or changed in the event either spouse’s income changes significantly, if either spouse’s monthly expenses change significantly, or if the spouse receiving maintenance cohabitates with another person.
There is a way to legally prevent future modification of spousal support. This is for both parties to agree to a waiver at the time the spousal support award is made. This prevents the parties from being allowed to go back to court to change spousal support/maintenance. It is critical to consult an attorney before proposing or agreeing to any waiver of financial support.
Contact Experienced Minneapolis, Minnesota Custody, Parenting Time, Child Support, and Spousal Support Modification Attorneys
Modification of decrees in Minnesota requires filing the correct documents and attending the necessary court hearings to accomplish crucial family and financial matters. You must also meet standards laid out by the court to have your modification requests heard and to effectively present your case.
Seeking advice from a Minnesota family law attorney experienced in the modification of custody, parenting time, child support, and spousal support, can ensure that your strongest case is heard by the court the first time. This can save you time, money, and frustration. Call the legal professionals at Perusse Nixon PLLC today for a consultation.