When a couple receives a final judgment from the court regarding their divorce, that doesn’t mean they won’t find themselves before the divorce court in the future. A spouse’s obligations regarding spousal or child support may change in certain circumstances. This blog discusses the laws that regulate post-judgment discovery in divorce cases.
The Material Change in Circumstances Standard
When a party seeks to change their obligations under a final divorce decree, they must show that a material change in circumstances justifies revisiting the terms of the order. The circumstances existing at the time the court issued its final judgment serves as the basis for determining when a material change of circumstances exists.
Thus, for example, if a spouse was unemployed at the time the family law court awarded them spousal support, the fact that they found a well-paying job after the divorce will constitute a material change of circumstances justifying reducing or terminating the spousal support order.
Financial Circumstances Discovery
A spouse’s obligation to pay child support or spousal support depends on their financial status. An award for spousal support is justified by a showing that the spouse to be supported needs financial assistance, while the supporting spouse has a financial ability to pay support. A spouse’s duty to pay child support depends on the relative income levels of each spouse.
As a result, the parties’ relative financial conditions are inherent issues when seeking an order to modify spousal or child support. Each party is required to submit their federal and state income tax returns to the court and for the other party to analyze. Failure to do so is a sanctionable offense.
A party may submit an income and expense declaration (Form FL-150) that lists their sources of income, assets, expenses, and liabilities. Discovery into a party’s financial condition may be conducted through informal or formal discovery methods. Informal discovery involves the voluntary exchange of information between parties without resorting to court supervision. Formal discovery methods are supervised by the court and can be more expensive.
Restrictions on Post-Judgment Discovery
Formal discovery methods for post-judgment requests to modify an existing divorce obligation are limited by law. Under California Family Code section 218, “when a request for order or other motion is filed and served after entry of judgment, discovery shall automatically reopen as to the issues raised in the postjudgment pleadings currently before the court.”
Thus, if a post-judgment request for order focuses solely on issues relating the modifying spousal support, the parties may not request discovery for evidence that is irrelevant to modifying spousal support.
Hire an Experienced Westlake Village Divorce Attorney
If you need legal advice regarding litigation that arises after your divorce, you should consult a Westlake village family law attorney with experience with post-judgment divorce matters. At the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Graff, our legal team, led by Attorney Graff, has years of experience handling divorce litigation that springs up after the court issues a final judgment. From discovery to court appearances to prosecute or defend a post-divorce request for order, we can guide you through each step of the process to make sure you have a hand on the wheel to steer the litigation towards a result that favors your interests.
For more information about how the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Graff can help you, call us at (805) 633-4999 to schedule a free consultation today.