Divorce Decree Modification: What Is It And Why Would You Need It?

by Sep 8, 2021Divorce0 comments

“Change is the only constant in life” – Heraclitus



Life is constantly changing. Think about how your life looked 5 years ago and how it looks now. Some things may be the same, but others may have gone through drastic changes. Your divorce happened at a specific moment in time, and the court ordered your divorce decree based upon a snapshot in time. But if large enough changes have happened in your life, or your former spouse’s life, you may need to seek a divorce modification.

What Are Divorce Decree Modifications?

A divorce decree modification is a formal request to the court to change the terms of a divorce settlement. You must be able to prove a significant change of circumstances that would warrant the court’s review. Your divorce lawyer can advise you as to whether the changes you or your former spouse have experienced would meet the legal standard for modification. 

Common types of divorce modifications

There are certain terms of your divorce that may be modifiable, and others that will not be. Terms that are open to modification include child custody, child support, parenting time, medical insurance for the children, spousal support, and potentially tax exemptions in certain circumstances. Your family law attorney can confirm which terms are modifiable.

Child Custody Modifications

If the current child custody order no longer seems to be in the best interest of the children, or has become impractical, you can request modification to the child custody order. For example, if you had a Shared Parenting order but your former spouse is moving out of state, perhaps having Sole Custody makes more sense now. Other reasons might include a significant change in the child’s medical needs or the availability of the non-custodial parent. It is wise to speak with a child custody lawyer if you or your ex have undergone substantial changes to your circumstances that would impact child custody or parental responsibilities.

Parenting Time Modifications

Remember that parenting time is different from custody. While similar life changes might affect both child custody and parenting time, these are in fact two different terms, and both might need to be modified. Relocation of one parent is a very common reason why parenting time may need to be modified. While changing custody requires that there be a significant change in the circumstances of the child, parenting time can be modified simply by showing that the current parenting time is not in the child’s best interest.

Child Support Modifications

Have you or your former spouse experienced a substantial change in income? This could lead to one party requesting child support modification. Child support was ordered based on the circumstances at one specific point in time, but job changes/loss can have a great impact on child support. If medical insurance for the children was part of the child support order, that may need to be modified as well.

Spousal Support Modification (Alimony)

Spousal support may only be modified if – and only if – the court has explicitly retained jurisdiction to modify spousal support. The modification may be to the amount of support, the length of the term of support, or both. In the greater Southwestern Ohio area, you will typically see a decree that provides for the court to retain jurisdiction over the amount of spousal support, but not the term. This means that a substantial change in income to either party could impact how much support must be paid, but it cannot shorten or lengthen the length of time it must be paid. Spousal support will also terminate upon the death of either party, remarriage of the party receiving spousal support, or potentially cohabitation of the party receiving support.

Property Division

The division of marital property and marital assets ordered in the final divorce decree may not be modified unless both parties agree. The court’s goal is to disentangle you from each other financially, so property division is usually set in stone. That said, if a provision is ambiguous, you may ask the court to interpret it and clarify the intent, but not modify it. Additionally, a court always has jurisdiction to enforce its own orders, so it is not uncommon for one party to file to enforce property division terms after a decree has been issued.

Bankruptcy and Divorce Modification

In rare circumstances, if a person takes on debt as part of the divorce decree but then files for bankruptcy, the court may order spousal support to offset the amount of debt the other person is now obligated to pay. This is called a domestic support obligation. It is best to speak with your divorce attorney if you find yourself in this situation.

How Do I request Divorce Modification?

You or your divorce lawyer must file a petition, typically with the same court where the judgment was issued. This is called a “motion to modify”. The petition then must be served onto your former spouse. You may be required to present evidence of a substantial change in circumstances at the time you file the motion, so be prepared for this.

Do I Need an Attorney to Request a Divorce Modification?

How badly do you want – or need – to have your divorce settlement modified? Of course, you are always free to petition the court on your own, but don’t be surprised if you quickly feel like you are in over your head. And it may be one thing to prove your own change in circumstances, but can you prove that your ex is making significantly more money now, or cohabitating with a new partner? 

Experts in Divorce Modification in Southwest Ohio

At Kirkland & Sommers, we only practice one type of law – family law. This means that not only are we divorce lawyers, but we are also child support lawyers, spousal support lawyers, child custody lawyers, adoption lawyers, and yes, divorce modification lawyers. With more than 100 years of combined experience in the greater Dayton area, we are intimately familiar with all the courts in this area and can give you expert guidance based on our knowledge of the court. It doesn’t matter if we were not your original divorce lawyers; we can still be your divorce modification lawyers! Learn more about our Fairborn divorce modification lawyers here.

Get a Free Consultation About Your Divorce Modification Questions

We are happy to spend time with you and listen to your needs and concerns. Let’s talk through the terms of your original divorce decree together, what you believe needs modified, and whether we are able to help you. As always, your consultation is free, so don’t hesitate to speak with an expert and get your questions answered! Call us today or click on the link below to schedule your free consultation now.