The divorce decree is often referred to as the "final order" or "final decree" in divorce, but many aspects of your divorce decree are subject to change under certain circumstances. Some issues in a divorce case continue to be litigated long after the final order is entered.
Most divorce decree modifications relate to children who are still minors after the divorce. Depending on the circumstances, a person can petition to modify child support, child custody and child visitation orders. Some states allow for divorce decree modification if the divorce court finds out there were hidden assets, concealed information or fraud.
Most states place restrictions on the reasons parents petition to modify child support and how often changes can be made. Child support guidelines usually specify the reasons why child support may be modified.
Child support modification is typically based on a significant change in one parent's income or earning capacity. If the noncustodial parent loses his job, he or she may petition the court to reduce or temporarily suspend the child support obligation.
On the other hand, if the parent paying child support sees a significant increase in income, the other receiving parent may petition the court to increase child support. Some states require a minimum increase or decrease of 10% in income before the court will hear a motion to modify child support.
For a parent to petition to modify child custody, he or she will need to show there is a significant change in circumstances. Divorce laws may put restrictions on why or how often a child custody order can be modified. For example, many states do not allow more than one petition to modify child custody within a year.
Child visitation schedules may be modified if one parent moves or even on smaller changes, such as a child becoming involved in an activity that makes the existing schedule unworkable. Petitions to modify child visitation and custody must be filed separately from child support modifications.
Even if a final decree is not modified, the divorce court retains jurisdiction over the case for as long as there are minor children involved. The court has the power to enforce child support, child custody and visitation orders through contempt actions. Parents who refuse to comply with the divorce court's order may be fined or jailed.
Some states allow modification of alimony award or spousal support order based on changes in the financial circumstances of the parties. Reasons why a spouse may petition the divorce court to modify alimony may include a substantial change in income, cost of living or alimony law. If the receiving party remarries or dies, it may be grounds for termination of alimony payments.
Speak with a divorce lawyer near you to learn more about divorce decree modifications. A divorce attorney can explain to you the process of changing your divorce decree and how state divorce laws may affect you. Fill out a divorce case review form or call 877-349-1310 today to get in touch with a divorce attorney near you.