Jack Carney-DeBord | Profile for Jack's Law Office Blog

Informative posts about Divorce, Dissolution, Child Custody and Family Law.

How Do I Change My Divorce Decree?

Change is an inevitable part of life. Even after your divorce and parenting plan is finalized, things happen. Living expenses change, children get older and employment opportunities can appear.

Custody arrangements and alimony agreements are binding, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be changed. In most states, Ohio included, changes to these agreements are known as a modification. Technically, you can make a modification to your divorce agreement, shared parenting arrangement and/or child support or alimony payments at any time after your divorce is finalized by a court of law.AttyHoldDivDecree

But to make and approve a modification, the court needs to see proof of a substantial change or reason since the entry of the original order. The family court system is busy enough, and wants to make sure that any modifications made are necessary without putting the divorced couple or their children through the stress of more judicial procedures.

Reasons for Modification

The most common reasons for modification requests to a divorce decree are alimony (also known as spousal support) and child custody. Modifications are also asked for when one of the parties loses a job or when a parent relocates outside of the county, state or country where the divorce was filed.

Alimony

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is usually modified due to the changes of circumstances in one or the other spouse’s living or financial situation. These can include:

  • A decrease or increase in the payer’s income
  • An increase or decrease in the recipient's income
  • The alimony recipient begins living with another adult
  • Either spouse becomes mentally or physically disabled
  • The supporting spouse gets remarried
  • A financial emergency
  • A change in state laws

A cost of living change is another common reason for a change in alimony, which is why it’s often a good idea to include a cost of living agreement clause in your original divorce agreement. Having this clause will prevent the time and expense it would take to modify the original agreement.

Custody & Support

Child custody, health care, support and visitation is the most common source of post-decree modification. Some of the reasons shared parenting and child support modifications are made include:

  • A decrease or increase in the payer’s income
  • An increase or decrease in the recipient's income
  • A change in state laws
  • The child is older and the original plan is no longer relevant
  • One of the parents wishes to move out of the county, state or country
  • Evidence that one of the parents is abusive or addicted has been uncovered
  • A parent who was formerly abusive or addicted has made progress in changing their behavior

To modify a shared parenting plan or child support payments in Ohio, it is necessary to prove a change in circumstances. This is especially important when making changes to a custody arrangement. For a court to approve a modification, the following should be true:

  • The change should be in the best interest of the child.
  • A substantial change of circumstances must have occurred since the original agreement.
  • The benefits of changing the plan and/or support should outweigh any potential harm.

What's the Best Way to Modify my Divorce Agreement?

The easiest and best way to modify your current arrangement is to talk it over with your ex spouse. Even if your original divorce was a contentious one, the passage of time can often make things easier because couples are more emotionally removed from the situation.

If you and spouse are still having problems communicating, make the effort anyway. If it does end up resulting in another court battle, your actions will show that you attempted to be the bigger person.

divorce agreement 2Convey to your ex--in an email or letter if you want to have it in writing--why you would like to change your agreement. Maybe you’ve switched jobs and aren’t making as much money. Perhaps you are going back to college and are now taking classes on the weekends.

It might be that your parenting plan was implemented when your child was in elementary school but doesn’t work as well now that they are a teenager.

Although changes in your divorce decree or parenting agreement require submitting official documents through the court system, like a divorce, you will save time and money if you can work out as much of your situation beforehand instead of fighting it out in court.

So present your situation to your ex first. If they aren’t up to negotiation, then you can take the next step and get your attorney involved.

How to Behave While Awaiting Post Decree Modification

You should be on your best behavior no matter what part of your divorce agreement you want to modify, but when it comes to changing your shared parenting plan, your behavior can determine whether or not the court will rule in your favor.

Follow these tips:

  • Good behavior includes a sincere attempt to resolve issues out of court. Our already overtaxed court system doesn’t want to be bothered with minor complaints and issues. Use a mediator or attorney to hammer out as many details as possible before filing.
  • It should go without saying, but don’t insult your ex in front of your children. It can force your children to feel that they have to take sides and can appear to the court that you are trying to manipulate them.
  • If you still have a bad relationship with your ex, don’t engage with them--in person, over the phone or by emails or through social media--except through legal channels such as your attorney.
  • Make sure you are in compliance with the current terms of the agreement. If you show that you are responsible and are sticking to the current schedule, it will help your case and make the court more favorable toward making the requested changes.
  • Even if you are attempting to lessen child support or alimony payments, continue to pay the amount and pay it on time while you are awaiting judgement. Otherwise, you have a chance of damaging your case.

Temporary Modifications

Why would a divorce decree or shared parenting agreement need to be temporarily changed? Common circumstances include job loss or change in financial situation or a long term but temporary illness or disability.

Temporary modifications to a divorce decree are treated by the court the same as permanent modifications, paperwork needs to be filled out and filed and a judge or magistrate will make a final decision on whether the change is needed.

Preparation & Evidence Needed for Modification

For the court to make a determination to modify your divorce or shared parenting plan, you’ll want to make sure that you have evidence to support your request. This requires being organized and prepared before you even start the process.

Ask yourself why you want to modify your decree. Is there a legitimate reason or are you still harboring bad feelings about your ex and are looking to get back at them? Are you moving? Did you recently lose your job? Are you getting remarried? Is there a major change in your work schedule?

WomanBuriedPaperworkWhen it comes to a shared parenting plan, you need to take a long, hard look at why you want to modify your child’s schedule. Children--especially young children--function better when there is stability in their lives. That’s why getting an initial parenting plan worked out can be so difficult--because it’s intended to last.

If you have decided to go ahead with your petition to change the original agreement, it is important that you document everything in writing. This is one of the most crucial things you can do to build your case. Even if you and your spouse are able to come to a friendly agreement, it is best to get the terms in writing.

After you have gathered everything together, you will need to fill out legal documents and file them with the court. Filing these documents will also require a fee to be paid. You can do this yourself, but may want a lawyer or paralegal to look over your documents before you file. If they are filled out or filed incorrectly the court will not bother to hear your case.

Like your divorce, filing of post decree documents will require the other party to be served with court papers.

Once the paperwork is filled out and filed properly and the other party has been served, a motion will be set for a hearing before the court judge or magistrate. (In Ohio, this person is usually a magistrate).

If both parties are in agreement on the terms of a post-decree modification then a trial won’t need to be scheduled. The motion an entry will simply be “rubber stamped “ by the court after the magistrate asks a few questions to make sure that both parties understand and agree.

Couples that are unable to come to an agreement before their hearing date, will have to have a trial. Like an adversarial divorce proceeding, this will take time and money as well as having the judge make a decision for the couple if they are unable to eventually agree.

Conclusion

Alimony, child support and shared parenting plans can all be modified--even after the divorce is considered final by both parties and the court.
Make sure that the modification is truly needed and be prepared--preferably with documentation--to show that a significant change is warranted.

Do your homework and consider alternate resolution like mediation before heading to court if at all possible and be prepared to work with your ex on other options or a middle ground.

Be mindful how this change may affect any children involved and consult an attorney to help guide you through the process.

VIDEO: I Need to Change My Divorce Papers. What Should I Do?

Have questions relating to modifying your divorce settlement? Call Jack at (740) 369-7567.

 

 

 

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