Can You Modify the Terms of a Divorce Decree?
Going through a divorce, even if it is an amicable dissolution is typically a draining experience. At least several meetings to reach an agreement is to be expected, which can easily stretch longer if issues become contested. Because of the time and effort that goes into the formation of a divorce settlement and the need for finality, when a judge eventually signs off on the divorce decree, the intent is that the decree will be the final say in the matter. However, circumstances change for former spouses, and, in some cases, courts will allow a modification of the divorce decree. Retaining the services of an experienced Orlando divorce attorney is essential for not only convincing the judge that the decree should be modified, but also to persuade the judge towards adopting the proposed modifications, over another alternative. Recently, a reality actress and her former spouse agreed on a modification of their divorce decree, necessary because of an issue he had with selling the marital home. While this agreement illustrates an agreed upon modification, not all modifications are consensual.
It should be initially noted that only certain aspects of a divorce decree are specifically modifiable, which are:
- Child Support;
- Child Custody; and
Concurrently, certain parts of a divorce decree may not be modified absent special circumstances – specifically, the equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities (property division).
However, modification will only be approved if there is an appropriate rationale. In general, in order to modify any aspect of a divorce decree, there must be a substantial change in circumstances since the decree was entered. In most cases, this generally means that there should be an approximate 15% difference, positively or negatively, in income or employment to warrant a financial adjustment. Additionally, there may also be situations where a change in lifestyle or medical necessity may require child related issues to be re-evaluated and modified. For example, if one spouse becomes unable to care for a child because of a serious accident or disability, changing visitation schedules or custody arrangements may be necessary. Further, remarriage is a common reason for the modification of alimony as well.
Increasing Chances for a Successful Request
Beyond the standard for the modification of divorce terms mentioned above, there are some ways to increase the likelihood of success when requesting modification of a divorce decree. First, it is important to ensure that the requesting spouse has “clean hands,” and has stayed in compliance with his/her obligations under the divorce agreement. Specifically, the requesting spouse should be upholding his/her requirements and obligations with regards to child care, parenting time, child support, and alimony. Although decisions regarding financial circumstances may or may not be in control of the requesting spouse (such as if he/she loses his/her job), those that make a good faith effort to pay, despite hardship, are more likely to convince the court modification is appropriate.
One important qualification to note about divorce judgment modifications is that a court will only intervene when the change in circumstance is dramatic and significant. Thus, divorce decree modification will not be granted for simple disputes over parenting issues, and should only be requested when the current situation is truly impracticable or unworkable.
Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney
Although your divorce may seem final, there are circumstances in which you may be able to alter or change certain aspects of your divorce decree. If you believe there has been a dramatic change in the circumstances of your life, modification of the divorce decree may be permissible. Contact the family law attorneys at the Donna Hung Law Group as soon as possible. The attorneys at our office represent clients in all areas of family law, including post-divorce issues, and are available to discuss your case. Contact the Orlando family law firm at (407) 999-0099 for a consultation.