Sometimes, a contract no longer suits your needs due to unforeseen issues. In other cases, you may not be able to accommodate someone due to the challenges in fulfilling their requests. In these cases and more, you need to know how to prove and claim unnecessary hardship in order to change contracts or custody orders.
This guide will break down what hardship means, how to use it, and cases in which hardship can be leveraged to change court-ordered or legal arrangements for the better. For more information and a free consultation, contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at 1-516-342-2200.
Hardship Clauses Explained
Hardship clauses are clauses in contracts or legal documents, such as court orders, that cover cases where unforeseen events may occur that can alter the “equilibrium” or balance of labor between two or more parties.
If a hardship clause is invoked, one party claims that they are unable to fulfill their expected duties or that they should not be expected to fulfill those duties due to one or more reasons.
Technically, hardship clauses include two (2) primary components:
- First, the hardship clause acknowledges that parties in a contractual arrangement must still fulfill their duties even if said duties become difficult for whatever reason.
- Second, the hardship clause acknowledges that if performance or meeting those obligations becomes “excessively burdensome” or otherwise difficult to achieve, it is possible to modify contractual arrangements as needed.
Put another way, hardship clauses state that business or legal parties must fulfill their obligations even if things become difficult. In some cases, those difficulties could be tough enough that the contract or legal arrangement can be modified.
Put into action, consider the following example:
- A business is contractually obligated to provide a certain amount of raw materials to another business so the second business can create products for its customers. Normally, if the first business doesn’t meet the terms of this arrangement, it could face monetary penalties.
- However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes far too difficult for the first business to acquire the materials they need to sell to the second business.
- Because of this, the first business invokes the hardship clause. As a result, both parties modify the contract (or fall back on modifications stipulated on the contract beforehand in the event of this occurrence), so the first business doesn’t have to pay penalties for several months while they recover their resource stockpiles.
Hardship Clauses and Legal Arrangements
Hardship clauses may also affect legal arrangements. For example:
- A divorced couple shares physical custody of their child. Normally, the child spends half of the week in the household of one parent and half of the week in the household of the other. The arrangement works because both parents live in the same city, so the child can attend the same school all throughout the week.
- One of the parents plans to move to a new state. However, the second parent (who will be left behind) is unable to leave their job and move to the new state with their child.
- The second parent thus petitions the court to change child custody arrangements or to prevent the first parent from moving. They reference the possibility of hardship meeting their obligations to care for their child half the time if they have to drive five hours both ways each time they are supposed to have physical custody.
- Because this arrangement would constitute unnecessary hardship on the part of the second parent, the first parent is denied their request to move and maintain the same custody arrangement.
As you can see, hardship is a highly complex and important legal term. It can affect a wide range of legal or business matters, so it’s important to know how it works.
So, What Is Hardship?
“Hardship” is a subjective and flexible term. There’s no set legal definition for hardship in every circumstance. However, most courts recognize a hardship as having one or all of the following factors:
- A long-term negative financial impact on a party
- Deprivation, suffering, or adversity for one or more parties
- An unforeseeable emergency, such as a natural disaster
- An unforeseeable personal disaster, such as an illness or major injury for one party
Hardship legal matters are settled on a case-by-case basis. Generally, courts will side with the party invoking a hardship clause or argument if:
- The hardship was unexpected at the time of the business contract or legal arrangement
- The hardship is significantly difficult to deal with
- The hardship is unevenly distributed (that is, only one party has to deal with the hardship)
Hardship vs. Force Majeure
Hardship clauses have some similarities to force majeure clauses in business contracts. That’s because they share some of the same features and refer to situations where circumstances change beyond prediction.
Force majeure clauses also free companies or individuals from legal obligations, even if those obligations are written on a binding contract. However, force majeure clauses only free companies or individuals from their legal obligations if it becomes reasonably impossible for the party to fulfill those obligations.
For example, if a business’s premises or factory are destroyed by a tornado or other natural disaster, a force majeure clause should protect the business from being sued by any of its partners or customers. After all, it would be unreasonable to expect the business to continue production while it tries to repair its facilities.
In contrast, hardship clauses specifically refer to arrangements worth carrying out one’s duties or obligations that would be difficult but not technically impossible.
When Is Hardship Used in Legal Matters?
Hardship arguments and clauses are used in a variety of legal matters. Three (3) of the most common legal matters are as follows.
Employer Accommodations for Disabled Workers
Most employers are legally required to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled workers. They are also not allowed to discriminate against disabled workers – failing to provide reasonable accommodations could be seen as discrimination in some court cases.
However, what constitutes a “reasonable” employer accommodation varies from case to case. Employers are not legally required to make accommodations for disabled employees or individuals if it imposes an undue hardship on business operations.
For instance, if an employee requires an elevator to get to a business’s premises on the third floor of a building, but installing that elevator would require millions of dollars and the company doesn’t have that kind of money, they may not be required to construct or contract laborers for the elevator.
Employers can go to court to leverage hardship clauses to avoid having to make accommodations when it is unnecessary or if the burden of accommodating disabled employees is unreasonable.
To learn more now at no charge, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-516-342-2200 and allow our experienced team of trial lawyers the honor and privilege of fighting – and winning – for you!
As noted above, businesses and business partners can also use hardship to make contract modifications. Most business contracts include hardship clauses by default to cover such eventualities.
For instance, if a shipping company is no longer able to meet distribution requirements for one of its clients, it may invoke the hardship clause in the contract in an effort to avoid paying fees or other penalties. However, the shipping company will need to prove that the hardship it faces was unexpected and unmanageable.
Child Custody Arrangements
Also, as seen in the above example, child custody arrangements may use hardship clauses or arguments to make modifications to parental responsibilities or obligations.
For instance, if one parent believes that meeting their child custody responsibilities will be unduly difficult or hard, they may ask the court for a contract modification. They may ask to change the child visitation schedule, ask for more or less custody of the child, or do something else entirely.
In child custody arrangements, an additional burden of proof is usually required when requesting child custody arrangement modifications: the modifications must be for the good of the child.
Child custody cases have child welfare at the forefront of all concerns. Therefore, even if something is difficult for a parent, a court may not agree to change a child custody ruling unless it would be better (or at the very least neutral) for the child in question.
Successfully Asserting or Denying Hardship
Hardship clauses or arguments are meant to be used sparingly and only when absolutely necessary. Therefore, parties who wish to assert hardship clauses or arguments must meet a high standard of evidence.
For instance, if a party wishes to modify a business contract using a hardship clause, they should:
- Review the contractual arrangement in its entirety, usually with the assistance of knowledgeable legal professionals;
- Make a detailed argument about the nature of the hardship;
- Prove that the hardship or change in circumstance was not foreseen by the burdened party (the party bringing the claim to court), was unable to be anticipated, and is uncontrollable by the burdened party.
Please note: In many cases, arguing a hardship clause can be difficult. That’s why skilled lawyers can be of invaluable assistance when filing a lawsuit or leveraging a hardship clause for a contractual modification.
To that end, qualified lawyers can:
- Gather evidence for the burdened party, such as financial details, travel times, and other metrics;
- Present the evidence compellingly in court, which can help to sway a judge toward the burdened party’s side;
- Offer sound legal counsel regarding such matters as whether there’s a more-than-likely chance of successfully securing a contractual change.
When you contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at 1-516-342-2200, we can and will fight for you — both in and out of court!
Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today
Hardship is a distinct legal concept that can be used to change contracts, modify court orders, and/or help you escape burdensome responsibilities that you can no longer fulfill for good reason(s).
That said, even in the best of circumstances, it can be difficult to successfully assert hardship, especially if you attempt to tackle the legal process without adequate support.
To improve your odds exponentially, you should consider hiring a legal team like Schwartzapfel Lawyers that comes equipped with 150+ years of combined experience; a team that has successfully helped countless New Yorkers just like you in a variety of cases, ranging from workers’ compensation claims to personal injury lawsuits and beyond.
To get started with your free case evaluation, please call on our knowledgeable team of NYC attorneys now at 1-516-342-2200. Alternatively, visit us online and have Schwartzapfel Lawyers fight for you!
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this page should be considered legal advice. You should seek the appropriate counsel your situation requires. For more information, call 1-516-342-2200 now!