A divorce decree is the final ruling made by the court concerning a divorce; it’s a binding legal obligation for all involved. It makes the termination of the marriage official under the law, and while it is a “final” ruling, it’s not actually set in stone. Divorcees – often represented by attorneys – can petition the court to reconsider the decree and are often successful in getting a modification; however, there are certain factors that are more likely to convince a judge to award the modification.
What Is a Post-Divorce Modification?
Post-divorce modification is a change to a pre-existing divorce settlement agreement. Courts generally won’t reconsider division of property and debt, but they will often reconsider spousal support, child support, visitation rights, custody and so forth. Ex-spouses can petition for a modification amicably. However, if one spouse wants a modification but the other does not, a motion for modification is required. This motion must generally be filed with the court that made the original decree. The spouse then has an opportunity to respond. From there, the court will decide to hear the case or not, and if the case is heard, the court will then make a determination whether to award the modification.
Note that there is one particular situation in which a court is likely to reconsider a revision to asset and debt distribution. This is when your ex-spouse knowingly or unknowingly didn’t disclose assets prior to the estate being determined and the decree made.
Change of Circumstances
Generally, the ex-spouse seeking the modification must demonstrate a significant change in circumstances. If a person was laid off and is now earning 25 percent less, then that may be deemed a significant change, and a modification may be awarded. A court may recognize that a modification is reasonable but still not award it because the change isn’t substantial enough. This practice is in large part to avoid people from putting undue stress on the courts with frequent modification requests.
How Your Behavior Matters
Behavior can and often does greatly increase or decrease the chances that a modification is awarded. If a former husband is seeking a modification, then it’s in his best interest to have been a model father, to have paid his child support on time and consistently and so on. It is also often expected that the ex-spouse seeking the change made reasonable efforts to reach an agreement with the other ex-spouse. If this cannot be established, then that can hurt the case as well.
Preparing for Modification
Preparing for modification is often a process in and of itself. Seeking legal representation as early in the process as possible can make a real difference in the likelihood of receiving a modification. During this period, it’s often worthwhile to document all of the changes that make a modification request reasonable. Courts are more inclined to award such revisions if the justification for them is not only substantial but also well-documented over a period of time.
Justifying a Modification
Justification is the cornerstone of any successful motion for modification. This reasoning will encompass the substantial changes to circumstances as well as your track record of behavior. It will likely include correspondence with the ex-spouse that demonstrates an attempt in good faith to reach a reasonable agreement without involving the court. A history of bad behavior by the other spouse can also be included to put your change in circumstances within a context that is more favorable to you.
Find the Assistance You Need With Morgenstern & Rochester
At the law office of Morgenstern & Rochester in Cherry Hill, post-divorce modification is among our areas of practice. We practice New Jersey law only and have assisted both men and women by helping them prepare for and navigate this process. If you believe you may be entitled to a settlement revision, then we encourage you to contact us. You can reach us by telephone at (856) 489-6200, or you can send us an email.