You may need to change your court order or separation agreement because of changes to your, your partner’s, or your children’s situation.
For example, you may want to change an order about child support because:
- your partner who pays support is making more or less money than they were when the agreement or court order was made
- your child has finished school, married, or moved out on their own
- your child has a full-time job
- there are new special or extraordinary expenses
Or, you may want to change other terms of your court order or separation agreement, like decision-making responsibility, parenting time, or spousal support. Decision-making responsibility and parenting time used to be called custody and access. You can only change these terms if you can show a material change in circumstances. This means you have to show that your situation has changed so much that your order or agreement needs to be changed.
- your child's living arrangements have changed
- either you or your partner would like to move and this will affect parenting time arrangements
- you're paying spousal support and you think your partner can now support themself
To change a separation agreement dealing with things other than support, you have to start a family law case. Your separation agreement will be one of the things the judge looks at when making decisions.
To change a final court order or a separation agreement dealing with support, you have to bring a motion to change. A motion to change is the name of the court process used to ask a judge to change a court order or separation agreement.
If you’re making the motion, you’re called the moving party. Your partner is called the responding party.
Some courts of the Superior Court of Justice and Family Court Branch of the Superior Court of Justice have dispute resolution officers (DRO). They are not judges but are trained to help people resolve their issues.
In courts where the DRO program is offered, motions to change come before a DRO first, instead of a judge. DROs can't make orders. But they can help you and your partner talk about the issues and come to an agreement that can be confirmed by a judge. If you still don’t agree, your motion is then heard by a judge.
The steps you take depend on whether: