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Something Has Changed…Modifying a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage (Maybe) – Divorce

What is a Divorce Decree?

In the ever-changing society we live, people are filled with reasons why they want to modify some portion of their divorce decree. There are things that can be changed and things that cannot.

Perhaps I should back up and explain what is in a divorce decree. When two people get divorced or dissolve their marriage, they are supposed to divide their assets (house, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc.) and their liabilities (credit card debt, student loans, vehicle loans, etc.) between them. There must also be orders about their children, child support and spousal maintenance.

Can I get a “Do-Over” in Division of Property or Debt?

Usually, after the divorce decree has been signed, the court will not modify property and debt division. There may be certain circumstances when these things may be revisited and modified, but generally speaking, a party does not get a “do-over” if they received or negotiated a bad property deal.

Decree Changes Regarding Children

Unlike property and debt division, anything related to children – custody, parenting time and child support are always modifiable upon a showing of a substantial and continuing change in circumstances or a showing that it is in the child’s best interest. Which one depends on the situation? Why are people able to change these orders? Because children and their needs are ever changing, orders must be as well.

Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) Changes

Spousal maintenance or alimony may be modified depending on the situation, such as if a spouse has changed employment, finished schooling or something else which results in a change in income. If the parties agree, they may make the spousal maintenance unable to be modified.

Modifying a Court Order

So how does one go about modifying a court order? If it relates to children, the parties can participate in mediation through the court and if an agreement is reached, oftentimes the mediator will prepare the necessary paperwork to reflect the agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, then one person has to file a request to modify through the court. It is a lengthy process that may take a few months or more to resolve. Emergency modifications are usually limited to very narrow and discrete situations, which would have to be the topic of another article.

The failure of one parent to plan accordingly does not create an emergency situation – i.e., if a parent wants to modify a child’s school, the time to request such a modification is not right before school starts.

Questions? Consult with a Family Law Attorney at Duenas Eden Law

If you have questions about whether you are able to modify an existing family court order, you should consult with a family law attorney.

If you would like do discuss further, please contact the Family Law Attorneys at Duenas Eden Law, PLC. We are experienced and trusted lawyers focusing on Family Law including; Divorce, Child Custody Cases, Child Support, Spousal Support, Same-Sex Legal Issues and other Family Law matters. We are Family Law and Child Custody Lawyers servicing Ahwatukee, Laveen, Tempe, Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert. Call today: (480) 285-1735.