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Making changes

As your family changes over time – kids get older and move out, you get a new job, your ex-partner remarries and has new children or loses his job, you want to move – you may need to make changes to your family court order.

If your relationship with your ex-partner is going reasonably well and if you feel safe, you may be able to begin discussions about any changes you want on your own. However, if this does not feel safe or comfortable to you, you may need to return to court.

The person seeking the change will need to bring a Motion to Vary, in which that person explains to the court what change they want and why they think it is appropriate.

To be successful, you have to be able to show the court that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original order was made and that any proposed change is in the best interests of the children. Here are a few examples:

  • Your ex-partner wants to reduce the amount of child support he is paying because he has lost his job.
  • You want to change the arrangement so you can decide when your ex-partner sees the kids because over the past year he has missed more visits than not.
  • You want to sell the family home, which was not discussed in the court order, but your ex-partner does not want you to.
  • One of your children is about to start university, and you need to reorganize child support.

You might also need to vary a court order for safety reasons. Perhaps you have started dating someone, and your ex-partner’s response has been to stalk and harass you. You may need to go to court to get a restraining order against him.

If you need to change your court order, and if negotiating directly with your ex-partner is not safe or worthwhile, you should talk to a lawyer. If you need financial assistance, you could reconnect with your advocate, who may be able to provide you with a two-hour family violence authorization form for an initial consultation with a lawyer, or you may be able to talk to the duty counsel lawyer at family court.

Going back to court will probably be very stressful for you, so make sure you call on your support networks for assistance, and do the best you can not to let the children feel your anxiety.