New York Courts Power to Modify Their Divorce Decrees

In Boden v. Boden, 42 NY2d. 210, 366 N.E.2d 791, 397 N.Y.S.2d 701 (1977), the Court of Appeals held that where there is an unforeseen change in circumstances and a concomitant showing of need the courts may increase the amount of child support to be paid, notwithstanding the existence of a valid, binding agreement between the parties. In Brescia v. Fitts, 56 NY2d 132, 436 N.E.2d 518, 451 N.Y.S.2d 68 (1982), the Court clarified that the rule enunciated in Boden was applicable in those instances where a child's needs were being met but a parent was asserting his/her own interest's in having the other contribute more. Where it is the child's right to receive adequate support that is being asserted, only a sufficient change in circumstances must be shown, notwithstanding the existence of an agreement between the parties. Id. In the latter case, the court's power stems from its interest in ensuring that the needs of the child are being met and such needs take precedence over the terms of an agreement. See Gravlin v. Ruppert, 98 NY2d 1, 5, 770 N.E.2d 561, 743 N.Y.S.2d 773 (2002).