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Revision (Modification) of Judgments/Orders

Under appropriate circumstances, the provisions of a judgment or court order which establish child support obligations are subject to review and possible modification. Modifications of such orders are usually referred to legally as "revisions."

The following specific topics are discussed in greater detail:

          o  Revision of child custody / physical placement
          o  Revision of child support
          o  Revision of maintenance
          o  Enforcement and Contempt

Revision of Child Support

In order to obtain a revision of child support, it is necessary to show: 1) that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since entry of the prior order; and 2) that in applying the new facts to the Wisconsin child support guidelines, a different order concerning child support is needed.

Generally speaking, the procedure by which the actual child support amount is determined is the same in a revision situation as when it is initially set. These procedures are described in greater detail on the page on this site concerning Child Support.

Revision of Custody/Placement

In order to obtain a revision of custody or physical placement, it is necessary to show: 1) that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since entry of the prior order; and 2) that in light of the applicable legal standard, different custody and/or physical placement provisions are needed.

The applicable legal standard for revisions to custody or placement, as referenced in 2) above, depends on the circumstances under which the request is made. The most common legal standard is that of "best interests of the child." That standard will usually apply except for a period of two years after the initial entry of a final judgment or order which establishes the custody and placement provisions. During that period, either parent seeking to substantially change the amount of time that the child spends with either parent will need to justify the change sought as being necessary to prevent "actual harm" to the child. This heightened standard for the two year period is designed to avoid a situation in which a party unhappy with the outcome of a contested custody or placement case might simply file a motion to revise the order shortly after its entry, since this may well result in "continuous litigation."

Revision of Maintenance

In order to obtain a revision of maintenance, it is necessary to show: 1) that the maintenance was not established as a non-modifiable obligation (in which case it cannot be revised); 2) that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since entry of the prior order; and 3) that in applying the law to the substantially different facts, a different order concerning maintenance is needed.

There is broad discretion afforded to the judge in the area of maintenance, and the particular factors which will be most persuasive to the court in addressing a possible revision of maintenance can vary greatly from one case to the next. The general factors which a court is required to consider in setting maintenance are referenced on the page on this site concerning Maintenance.