Changing or Enforcing Final Orders in Maine Family Matter Cases

Enforcing Family Law Final Orders in Maine

Final orders issued by the Maine Family Court, such as a child support order, can be enforced by the authorities.

If, however, a change of circumstances is substantial enough to justify an amendment to the order, the appropriate legal steps can be taken for the family law courts to arrange this.

Generally speaking, any request to change a support order or other matter concerning parental rights and responsibilities in Maine is made by filing a motion to modify with the court.

Motion to modify

Under Maine law, there must be a “substantial change in circumstances” to justify a modification of an order concerning parental rights and responsibilities or divorce.

But what constitutes a “substantial change”?

This can vary from case to case but generally, it is when the circumstances that led to the original child support calculation change sufficiently to result in a new calculation that is 15 percent higher or lower than the existing order.

This usually occurs due to a major change of financial circumstances resulting from a change of employment/income or relocation but several other reasons can prompt a modification too (see below).

If both parties agree on the change of the order, it is relatively straightforward to arrange providing the arrangement remains in the best interests of the child. Otherwise, a judge will need to decide whether a change is warranted.

Modification of a child support order in Maine

Modifying a child support order may be possible in Maine if you can demonstrate one of the following:

  • A change in your or the other parent’s income that would increase or decrease the amount of child support by 15 percent, or
  • It has been at least three years since the original child support order was issued and you want to request a review.

Filing a motion to modify child support is free in Maine but a filing fee applies to motions for other types of orders.

The following five forms are required if you want to file a motion to modify in Maine:

Modification of a divorce judgement in Maine

Modification of a divorce judgement in MaineA divorce judgement is handed down in the final stages of a contested divorce in Maine before a judge signs the divorce decree.

Usually, this is final and binding. If you are unhappy with the decisions regarding property division, no motion to modify the judgement can be made.

However, it may be possible to file a motion to review other elements of the judgement if you can demonstrate that it is justified and that good-faith attempts to work out the problem with the other party have been unsuccessful.

What is a motion to enforce?

Changing a court order is one thing, enforcing it is another.

Sometimes, the other party involved in the court order does not follow it. In such cases, you may need to file a motion to enforce or a motion for contempt with the Maine courts.

You may first be required to attend court-ordered mediation sessions with the other party or a court hearing may be held at which a judge will take steps to enforce the order.

Mediation in Maine

Mediation is an attempt to resolve the issues presented in a motion to enforce or a motion to modify in an informal way rather than having it settled by a judge.

A qualified, court-appointed mediator will attempt to facilitate an agreement between the disputing parties in a process designed to resolve the issue amicably. The mediator is impartial and does not make decisions—the final decision whether to accept a proposed resolution rests entirely with the disputing parties.

What is a motion for contempt in Maine?

Motion for Contempt in MaineIf a motion to enforce does not work, a motion for contempt may be filed to hold someone who does not comply with a court order responsible for their actions.

For a court to consider a motion for contempt in Maine, you must be able to prove that the other party is not following a court order despite having the ability to do so and that their actions are intentional.

A motion for contempt requires a court hearing in front of a judge and if the judge agrees with you, jail time or another remedy may be used as a means to urge the party to comply.

What are common reasons for a motion to modify in Maine?

One of the most common reasons for filing a motion to modify in Maine is losing one’s job and having to take a position with a substantially lower salary. This can make a current support order untenable for the payor and therefore warrant a modification.

Note that the court bases its calculations on earning capacity. This means that if you quit your job or scale back your work (to avoid paying support), you will likely be classed as “voluntarily underemployed” and your support order will still reflect what you could earn.

Child support in Maine is calculated according to the Maine Child Support Guidelines as well as the health insurance and daycare costs for the child. Each parent is responsible for his or her portion of the total based on his or her percentage of the parties’ joint income.

So, another reason for filing a motion to modify could be if the cost of health insurance or childcare increases dramatically, i.e., resulting in a change of 15 percent or more.

Can the basic child support obligation prompt a modification in Maine?

The basic child support obligation is derived from the Maine Child Support Guidelines. This rarely changes and is, therefore, seldom the topic of a motion to modify.

The system is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and they were updated in 2016. Previously, children aged 12 and over were classed as being more costly to raise.

Now. when making calculations, no differentiation is made according to the age of the child. A single child support figure is calculated for various income levels regardless of the child’s age.

This means that the basic support obligation for younger children is slightly higher than it used to be and the obligation for older children is slightly lower.

In itself, this will not amount to a substantial enough change to warrant a modification but together with changes in income, health insurance costs or child care costs, it could amount to a change of 15 percent or more—potentially prompting a modification.

As you have seen, the process for modifying a support order in Maine is challenging. For assistance with modifying or enforcing child support orders, contact an attorney at The Maine Divorce Group.

Call 207-230-6597 or contact us online to schedule a consult with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys today.

We serve many clients, just like you, across Maine in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, & Lincoln Counties.

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