Post Separation Changes

post separation changes

As time passes, certain terms negotiated in a separation agreement may prove to no longer be applicable and need to be updated or revised. An amending or subsequent separation agreement should incorporate the new changes to ensure they will be understood and enforceable.

Child Support Annual Income Review

To meet an obligation to pay monthly child support or to share in paying the children’s expenses, parents will annually exchange copies of their filed income tax returns. It gives each parent the information needed to review the amount paid for the benefit of the children, ensuring the appropriate amount is paid.
As the income of the paying parent rises or falls, adjustments are made to the monthly amount of child support, typically on a “go forward” basis. A sudden change in income may be seen as a “material change in circumstances” warranting an immediate review of all factors relating to the children’s needs and the parents’ incomes (see below).

Competing Child Support and Spousal Support Claims

The obligation to pay child support takes priority over the granting of spousal support when there are competing claims and limited financial resources from which support can be paid.

To ensure that the welfare of the children comes first, the parties may negotiate that spousal support be paid at a later date. Once child support has been reduced or terminated, then an opportunity may arise for a former spouse in financial need to make a new request or seek an increase in the amount of spousal support being paid.

Material Change in Circumstances

A separation agreement will be based on the circumstances of the family just prior to or at the time the agreement was drafted. As difficult as it may have been, at the time of signing the document, families will have used their ‘crystal ball’ to predict the future financial strength of the family. Will the completion of a training program provide meaningful employment three years away? Or, will the assumption about maintaining the same employment for the next five years come true?
Families after separation experience the same changes just as many other types of families do:

  • Change in the composition of the family
  • Loss of a job due to illness or accident
  • Reduction in the income available to a parent paying child support, due to severe fluctuating market conditions affecting a family business
  • Substantial change in income up or down
  • Relocation for employment

These unpredictable changes may affect whether certain obligations negotiated in a signed separation agreement can in fact now be met. The obligations most affected by life changes are parenting arrangements and the paying of support.

Continuity of Lawyer’s Involvement

Develop a long-term relationship with your family law lawyer, who understands your family history, the children’s special needs, and prior disputes, and who was directly involved in the negotiation of the recent separation agreement with your best interests in mind.