The divorce process can be difficult, and as you and your spouse work to end your marriage, you will need to address and resolve many different legal issues. You will also need to determine how to handle financial matters, address all of the practical concerns that come with separating the various areas of your life that have become combined, and establish yourself as a single person. As you move on from what could be one of the most traumatic experiences of your life, you will want to put these matters in the past and move forward into a more positive future.
However, even if you have dealt with all divorce-related issues properly, there are some situations where legal issues related to your ex-spouse may arise, and either of you may pursue modifications of the court’s orders. These modifications may be related to financial support paid by one party to the other, or divorced parents may wish to update a child custody order to address changes in the lives of themselves or their children. Whether you believe that modifications need to be made to your divorce decree, or you need to respond to a modification request by your ex-spouse, you will need to make sure you are represented by an experienced family law attorney.
Modifications of a Divorce or Child Custody Order
Addressing Property-Related Issues and Modifying Spousal Support
It is important to note that in most cases, decisions about the division of marital property will be irrevocable once a divorce is finalized. Even if you are unhappy about how these matters were addressed, you will most likely be unable to make any changes to these decisions once your divorce decree or judgment has been issued. One of the only exceptions where a property division settlement may be revisited is in cases where a person discovers that their ex-spouse had hidden assets during their divorce. In these situations, it may be possible to reopen a divorce case and determine how to divide any newly-discovered assets that a spouse had failed to disclose.
Cases in which divorce cases are reopened due to hidden assets are rare. A more common financial issue that may require post-divorce modifications involves changes to a person’s financial status that would affect the financial support they pay or receive. Spousal support (which is also known as alimony or spousal maintenance) is meant to ensure that both spouses can continue living at the standard to which they were accustomed while married. If either party experiences changes to their financial circumstances, they may ask for a modification to address this issue.
Reasons that a person may request a modification of spousal support may include the loss of a job or other issues that affect the income they are able to earn. For example, a person who pays spousal support may suffer a serious illness that causes them to be disabled. In these cases, they may struggle to cover their own ongoing expenses, and it may not be feasible for them to also provide support for their former partner. After considering the parties’ circumstances, the court may choose to reduce the amount of support or eliminate the requirement to pay support altogether. Spousal support will also usually be terminated when the party who receives support gets remarried or begins cohabitating with a new partner, or when either party dies.
Modifying a Child Custody Order or Child Support
While agreements related to the custody of children are meant to remain in place following a divorce, there are many situations where parents may believe that changes to these agreements are warranted. However, to successfully modify a child custody order, a parent will usually need to demonstrate that they, the other parent, or their children have experienced a significant change in their circumstances.
These changes can come in a variety of forms, but they will usually need to be directly related to the parents’ ability to provide care for their children. For example, a parent may begin a new job that will require them to travel regularly or work unpredictable schedules. Since this could potentially affect their ability to provide care for their children during their scheduled parenting time or visitation, they may need to modify their child custody order to create a new schedule or make arrangements addressing how changes to parenting time may be made due to work responsibilities.
Child custody arrangements may also need to be adjusted based on changes in children’s lives, such as medical conditions that may require additional care or school-related activities that take place during a parent’s scheduled parenting time. As with most legal matters related to children, the court will be looking to create arrangements that protect children’s best interests. If parents cannot agree on what modifications should be made, they will need to provide evidence showing that their requested modifications will provide for their children’s best interests.
As with spousal support, child support may be modified based on changes to the parents’ financial circumstances, and modifications may also address increases in children’s needs, such as requirements related to medical care. However, the court will be looking to make sure that both parents contribute to their children’s ongoing needs and expenses. Even if a parent has lost their job or experienced issues that affect their ability to pay child support, the court may still order them to make payments based on what they should be able to earn.
One of the most common situations where a person may request a modification of the terms of their divorce decree related to their children is when a parent plans to move to a new location. The laws regarding parental relocation differ from state to state, but they most commonly apply if a parent who has primary or shared custody will be moving a significant distance from their current home. In these cases, a child custody order may need to be modified to address how the parents will make decisions for their children, the time children will spend with each parent, and the arrangements for transportation of children between parents’ homes.
Parents may be able to agree on changes to child custody and parenting time, but if one parent objects to the other parent’s planned relocation, a court hearing may need to be held to determine whether the move will be allowed. When addressing these issues, a family court judge will look at factors such as the opportunities available to children at their current home and the proposed new location, how the move will affect children’s relationship with parents and extended family members, and whether the reasons for moving or objecting to the move are in good faith or are a malicious attempt to harm the other parent’s relationship with their children. As is true when dealing with any child-related issues, the court will be looking to find solutions that will protect children’s best interests.
Getting Legal Help With Post-Divorce Modifications
Whether you are planning to request a modification to your divorce decree or need to address any of these types of requests made by your ex-spouse, it is crucial to work with an attorney who can advise you of your rights and options and provide you with representation during court hearings. With a skilled divorce lawyer on your side, you can be prepared to handle these issues correctly, and you can ensure that your rights and your children’s best interests will be protected.
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