When a divorce decree is signed by the judge, the two ex-spouses usually breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that they can resume their lives again. However, it is not always a final ruling.
Months or even years later, amendments may need to be made to the original divorce order. These are called post-decree modifications.
What is a post-decree modification?
Sometimes, divorce agreements need to come back to the courts for further judgments on various key aspects.
These are known as post-decree modifications and usually affect the financial or custody arrangements.
It could be due to new information coming to light that was not previously known or a continuing change of circumstances for one or both parents.
In such cases, a motion to modify or a motion to reopen (in limited circumstances) is necessary to address the new information or change in circumstances.
If accepted, a judge will then reassess the case and make a new judgment with the goal of amending the Permanent Orders to accurately reflect the current lives of those it involves.
Just as with the original divorce agreement, the services of an experienced divorce lawyer are essential to a successful decree-modification process.
What can be modified?
Divorce orders can be modified in the following key areas:
- Financial settlements – the division of property and assets or debts (based on fraud materially affecting the outcome)
- Physical child custody arrangements – visitation rights, etc.
- Legal custody – parental decision-making
- Child support – sometimes a change of financial circumstances warrants this
- Maintenance/spousal support – sometimes a change of financial circumstances may require a new arrangement
It should be noted that, just as with the original divorce decree, the judge’s decision on making modifications will be based on protecting the best interest of the children as well as a fair and equitable result for the parties.