“Can I make modifications to my divorce judgment? My circumstances have changed, and I’m going to need more support.”
A divorce judgment is intended to be a final decision for a marriage. It dissolves the marriage permanently. It also provides a final conclusion for the division of property. However, child support and spousal support provisions in divorce judgments are generally subject to review from time to time.
In the area of child support, parents are always entitled to return to court to ask that the child support be increased or decreased depending on changes in the parents’ financial circumstances. If a paying parent’s income increases dramatically, the Child Support Guidelines will likely call for a higher level of child support. In the area of spousal support, it is also possible to ask a court to review both the obligation to pay support and the quantum of the support. In either case, the court will want to see if there has been a material change in the circumstances of the person receiving the support. A serious change in health or finances could be considered material and trigger an increase — or decrease — in the quantum of spousal support.
It is important to have an experienced family lawyer review the divorce judgment itself as well as separation agreements or marriage contracts that may contain related provisions — especially since recent decisions in Ontario have reopened the question of support even where it has been expressly waived. The bottom line, however, is that if your circumstances have significantly changed, the court will entertain a request for modification to support provisions in a divorce judgment.
Michael Cochrane is a lawyer with Ricketts Harris LLP. He is the author of several books on family law, including Surviving Your Divorce: A Guide to Canadian Family Law and For Better or For Worse: The Canadian Guide to Marriage Contracts and Cohabitation Agreements. He can be reached at (416) 364-6211.