A client walked into Apple six months ago, trying to get his alimony modified. He was not sure about hiring an attorney because he felt his previous attorney was a tiger in his office but a wallflower in Court. We finally asked us him to let us try to solve his family law problem and made a commitment to treat him like our most important client. His reluctance gave way to confidence in our firm and he hired us.
The case was a garden-variety modification of alimony, one of the most heavily litigated types of family law cases. The standard for a modification of alimony is completely at the discretion of the court. The court does not have an obligation to modify; it just has the option…that is if your attorney proves the three elements. To receive a modification of alimony the petitioner, the person asking for the modification in layman’s terms must demonstrate that three things have happened since the original divorce:
• The party asking for a modification must demonstrate a material change in circumstances. That means things have drastically changed for one party for the better or the worse. Sickness or long-term loss of employment can be examples of such material changes.
• This change in circumstance must not have been contemplated at the time of the divorce. For example, graduating from college would not apply. A severe illness might apply (but not always).
• The change in circumstance must be sufficient (usually meaning whatever the Judge feels is sufficient), material, permanent and involuntary. Quitting a high paying job to join the Peace Corps would not apply. Layoffs from a permanent closing of a factory might apply.
To protect my client’s privacy, I won’t disclose what his or her circumstances were, but I believed they warranted a permanent change in the alimony my client was paying. But the trick was convincing someone else that it was. Namely a Judge…or the other party.
Too many attorneys in family law cases litigate every single issue…we are good at arguing…but just as important as a good argument is being a good diplomat. They say you can get more with sugar than with vinegar. I convinced my client that the diplomatic approach was better than a win at all costs approach and perhaps we could tap into a well of emotions and good will. So we went in with a good attitude, and open mind…
And the other party agreed to a fifty percent reduction in alimony…in mediation.
If you want to hire an attorney who has a good heart and won’t take you to the cleaners, give us a call at 904-685-1200.