Judgement Modifications

As circumstances change over time, it may be necessary to modify the terms of your divorce judgment.  While the terms of the property settlement in a divorce judgment are modifiable only in very unique circumstances, custody, parenting time, child and spousal support may be modified if there has been a substantial change in circumstances.  A significant change in income, a parent moving out of state, and issues involving the care of children may warrant a modification.

Although you can petition for a modification of spousal or child support at any time after your divorce is finalized, you must show there is a substantial change in the financial circumstances of one or both of the parties.  Factors that may warrant a modification in support obligations include, but are not limited to the following: job loss; loss of income; job promotion; physical disability affecting a party's ability to work; special needs of the child and the birth of non-joint children. 

Child custody may also be modified after a divorce judgment, but the parent requesting the modification must show that the custodial parent's ability to care for the child has substantially changed since the divorce decree.  Substance abuse, mental health issues, physical abuse or neglect of a child are some of the reasons custody might be modified.

The standard for changing parenting time (visitation) is not as stringent as the standard for modifying custody.  In order to modify parenting time a party does not need to show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances; he or she must show that a change in parenting time is in the best interests of the child.  A typical reason to change a parenting plan may be that the original plan was drafted when the child was very young.  Once the child has reached school age a new schedule may be appropriate.

How to Modify Your Divorce Decree

If at all possible, its best if you and your ex-spouse can come to an agreement on the change requested. If so, a lawyer will make the modifications to your existing decree.  Once both you and your ex-spouse sign it, the decree will be approved by a judge and become legally binding.

Preparing for a Contested Modification

Most often your ex-spouse will not be in agreement when you request a modification.  When this is the case, there are a number of actions you can take to better your chances for a successful modification. 

Attempt to resolve the matter amicably.  When doing so, keep a documented record of doing so by saving emails, text, and written correspondence.   Be polite and sincere in trying to get the matter resolved.

Your actions will influence your case for a modification.  Exhibit model behavior.  If children are involved, be a model parent. If you have visitation, take advantage of it. If you are the non-custodial parent, be on time with child support payments. Be involved in their activities, schooling, and other aspects of their daily lives.  Encourage a healthy relationship with your ex-spouse, and insulate your children from the issues you're having with your ex-spouse.

I am in the process of retiring and am not accepting clients for full representation. I am able to do some consulting and document preparation if needed.  Contact me at shelly@matthysfamilylaw.com