Navigating Post-Divorce Changes
Divorce impacts a large segment of our population. Issues that must be resolved in a divorce are often highly emotional and challenging, including spousal support (alimony), child support, division of property and child custody arrangements. Typically, once these issues are resolved, they are incorporated into what’s known as a final divorce decree.
However, few things in life remain the same. It’s almost inevitable that in the months or years following the divorce, people’s lives and circumstances will change. When it becomes no longer possible for one or both parties to continue abiding by the decree, a post-decree or post-divorce modification may be required.
Why make changes to the decree? Some of the most common reasons for modifying the divorce decree include:
- Changes to child support.
- Changes to child visitation arrangements.
- Changes in one or both spouse’s financial circumstances.
- Changes in one or both spouse’s employment.
- Changes in health insurance expenses.
- A new marriage for one or both spouses.
- One spouse is moving out of state.
- A child turns 12 or 13 and wants to spend more time with her other parent.
The court often does not want to revisit the terms of the divorce decree unless absolutely necessary. Ultimately, the party requesting the change must demonstrate that a “substantial and continuing change of circumstance” has occurred and must be addressed.
If changes can be resolved easily between the spouses, the decree can be amended without much difficulty or expense. However, in many cases, that simply isn’t possible – especially if one spouse is accusing the other of violating terms of the original decree (e.g., making child support payments on time).
Having an Attorney on Your Side. During this process, it’s especially important to have a legal representative who can represent your interests and protect your rights. If you are seeking the changes, you or your attorney will need to file a “motion to modify” with the court (usually the same court overseeing your divorce). In that motion, you must lay out the reasons why the modification is warranted.
When financial matters and/or your kids are involved, a “motion to modify” can resurrect memories of contentious discussions that occurred during the divorce. Your attorney can represent your interests in negotiations with your ex-spouse and can help you strive to reach an agreement workable for all parties before you head back into court, where expenses can mount quickly.