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How to Make Changes to Your Divorce Agreement

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

post_decree_issuesIt's not uncommon for divorcing couples to celebrate the receipt of their official Decree of Divorce, but is that really a good idea? Too often, couples end up in a courtroom several times after the final decree is issued as they navigate post-decree amendments. In many cases the terms of the divorce no longer work because of changes in your life or your children's lives.

What are some common reasons for changing a divorce agreement?

Sometimes it's something as simple as an income reduction. For example, your employer might be facing financial challenges and as everyone to take a temporary pay cut. Perhaps the cost of raising children has gone up as they've gotten older. But the more complicated "post-decree" issues revolve around child custody. If you have lived with a situation for years, such as your ex's substance abuse, you may find it gets worse over time and the custody arrangements need to be changed. These are often some of the most contentious battles seen in family court and may often require testimony from psychologists and caregivers.

If you find yourself calling your lawyer to make some necessary changes, he or she will file a petition for modification of your original agreement. This can be hassle-free if you and your ex-spouse see eye to eye, but it can also have a ripple effect on other parts of the agreement. Just as you did at the time of divorce, you must draw up a revised agreement with the help of an attorney, just to be certain you don't create additional problems for yourselves down the road. However, if you want changes that your former spouse doesn't agree with, you may be in for a replay of old divorce battles.

Consider mediation for contested matters

Rather than moving directly toward the courtroom, consider using a mediator to help you find middle ground. Mediation can help you find a compromised solution without the expense and emotional upheaval of a drawn-out battle in court.

Choose your battles wisely

It may be difficult to change the terms of your divorce settlement, but courts are open to changes in child support, spousal support and custody agreements. States that provide the ability to change a divorce settlement usually offer a very short window of opportunity, typically 30 days after the divorce becomes final.

How can you demonstrate a change in circumstances?

Making changes to your agreement may be difficult if the change involves money, and chances are good that you and your ex won't agree; but the state has the final say in matters of child support and spousal maintenance. If you cannot find a mediated solution it may be time to hire (or rehire) a divorce attorney. He or she will be able to file a motion with the court for a hearing where evidence can be presented to justify changes. Be prepared for a rebuttal from your ex's attorney and if your request is unreasonable expect some pushback from the judge.

Changing custody and visitation

Modifying the terms of visitation or custody might be the most contentious of all "post-decree" issues because you must demonstrate the legitimate need for such significant changes. Such a modification will do more than just impact your spouse's time with the children; it will also affect the children's lives.

Some examples of these changes include an upcoming move that is far away from the home of the children, or far from the noncustodial parent. Another reason for a change in custody might come up when the children are not being properly supervised when they are with the other parent. If your former spouse develops a substance abuse problem, supervised visitation may be required. Anything that interferes with the safety and well-being of the children will be considered a legitimate reason to change custody, but this must first be proven by the petitioner.

If your ex has developed a serious physical or mental illness, an addition to drugs or alcohol, has been arrested for a violent crime or accused of child abuse, immediate action must be taken to change your custody and visitation agreement.

Custody changes may not always be caused by parental behavior

Not every change in custody comes from the behavior of the other parent though; there are many cases where a teenage son or daughter is in constant conflict with the custodial parent and can no longer be controlled. If this occurs it may be in the child's best interest to live with the other parent.

It is also possible that your ex's new spouse is giving your children advice that contradicts with the values you are trying to instill, or allowing them to do things that you would never permit. If this is the case, you may have legitimate grounds for a change in custody.

Even if your divorce was finalized years ago, a Colorado Springs family lawyer can help you make changes to your existing custody and child support agreements. Most of these changes will require the petitioner to provide proof or justification that will hold up in court. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you present a valid and persuasive case.

Photo Courtesy of Nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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MPatMarrisonFor over a quarter century, we have helped people during what is often the darkest time in their lives. Divorce is not easy even under the best of circumstances. For most people, family is central. Having something go wrong in the family can have a ripple effect that extends beyond the home and into other areas.

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