After a divorce, you must usually live with the court’s decision. At this point, there’s no more arguing. You and your former spouse need to follow the rules of your agreement or the Court Order.
However, situations often arise when you need to modify or enforce the existing Order. Many of our clients ask can a divorce decree be modified? Our experienced team understands the ins and outs of modifying an existing order.
When Can I Modify the Provisions of My Divorce Agreement or Divorce Order?
To modify any part of a divorce agreement or Order, you need legitimate reasons that are clear and legally defensible. In other words, you cannot decide one day to modify your agreement out of emotion or spite toward your ex-spouse. Our team of experts can advise you on how to amend your divorce decree in the best possible manner.
Modifying Child or Spousal Support
You may be able to modify child or spousal support if the following occurs.
- A significant change in custody. If your children now live with you or moved out of your house, then a change in child support could occur.
- A significant change in income. If your income or the income of your ex-spouse significantly increases or decreases (typically by over 20%), a change in child or spousal support could occur. Many modifications in child or spousal support take place when a person is laid off or suffers an involuntary loss of income.
- A major circumstance that affects finances. If an event such as a serious illness or a natural disaster occurs that affects a parent’s finances, then child or spousal support may get revisited on a temporary or final basis.
While financial agreements (such as property division) are impossible to change after a divorce, courts will usually be open to changing child support, alimony, and other forms of spousal support if circumstances require it.
An attorney can help you:
- Enforce the terms of equitable division assets and debts contained in the final agreement or Order.
- Transfer interest in retirement plans (qualified domestic relations orders, or QDRO) and even adjusting QDROs if needed.
- Provide child support payments through income deduction orders (IDO).
- Make sure you are not overpaying, underpaying, or caught by any surprises on your taxes after your divorce.
Modifying Child Custody
Typically, it’s difficult to modify a child custody agreement within two years after your divorce is finalized unless you or your ex-spouse experience a significant change in circumstances.
If it has been at least two years or if either one of you have experienced a substantial change, then you may be able to modify child custody if:
- Your children are 11 or older. Your children usually have little say about child custody until they turn 11. Between 11 and 14, a child can ask to legally modify custody. After 14, a judge will go along with the child’s wishes so long as the modification is in the child’s best interest.
- Your children are struggling in school. Education is a large part of your child’s best interest. If your children are struggling in school as a result of parenting or poor schooling, then a judge may alter custody to improve your children’s educational circumstances.
- The custodial parent gets arrested. Getting arrested after a divorce is finalized jeopardizes a custodial parent’s ability to keep custody of his or her children.
- There are allegations of alcohol or drug use. Alleged alcohol and/or drug use signifies that a custodial parent may be unable to provide a safe, secure environment.
- Physical abuse occurs. A judge will often quickly remove children out of a physically abusive environment if there is clear proof.
- The custodial parent alienates the non-custodial parent. If a custodial parent intentionally fails to communicate, withholds the child, and prevents the other parent’s legal visitation from happening, then a judge may step in to alter custody.
- One or both parents move far away. If a parent moves a significant distance away, then a custody agreement may be revisited because of logistical reasons.
How Are The Rules of My Divorce Agreement or Order Enforced?
A divorce agreement or Order isn’t like a marriage agreement. It’s a serious, binding legal Order. If you or your ex-spouse do not follow it, you will be in contempt of court, which can mean fines or even jail time.
In some cases, enforcing child support can become difficult and complex—especially when parents live in different states or one parent has moved around a lot. Some contempt orders can take years to resolve when tracking a parent down. In many cases, an ex-spouse will fail to pay child support. To collect owed child support, you will need to work with an attorney and the courts to find your ex-spouse in contempt and force him or her to pay you.
If you are the parent paying child support, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Even if you filed for a child support modification, you still need to pay your current child support obligations up until the time the court makes a decision.
- Don’t let emotion or anger prevent you from paying. Put your children first.
- Waiting for a contempt order may lead to fines or jail time. If you know you’re having financial trouble or an issue why you can’t (or won’t) pay, then be proactive with your ex-spouse and work out a solution.
- Your income doesn’t matter. If you have the money in your savings to pay, then you have to pay.
How Can An Attorney Help Me Modify or Enforce Agreements and Orders?
If you have questions about modifying or enforcing your agreement or Court Order after your divorce, come see us for a consultation or call us today at (678) 971-3413. Once we understand your circumstances, we’ll help you make the best decision for you and your family.