When does a divorce decree need modification?
A divorce decree in Colorado is created at the time of divorce and is meant to be a final resolution of all issues surrounding a legal separation. These issues include legal custody of a children as well as issues like child support and alimony. However, the factors that persist after divorce like the examples just mentioned are agreed upon depending on the situation prevailing at the time.
If later on situations change, then the divorce decree may need to be modified to accommodate the new conditions. For example, the parent with custody may be moving to another state and doesn't want to uproot the child from his or her environment. Or with the downturn in 2009, one spouse may not be able to make his or her alimony payments.
Image Credit: madmolecule
Informal Agreements for modification of divorce decree
One might be tempted to "talk it out" with a spouse when both are amenable to a reasonable adjustment in the terms of the divorce decree. For example, a lowering of alimony when the paying spouses income goes down. This approach is easy, hassle free and provides maximum flexibility to both parties.
However, the disadvantage of this approach is that the original agreement is still binding and this can be dangerous for either spouse. In case of later disagreement for example, the court will still hold the paying former spouse to owe the full amount irrespective of the informal agreement and can hold the person in question in contempt of court. This can result in serving jail time.
In case of change of circumstances, the best approach is to legally modify the divorce decree to protect each spouse from future liability.
Process of changing a divorce decree legally
Modification without a court hearing
In order to give a legal stamp to changes in the divorce decree, the former partners can come to an agreement that is written into legalese by their attorneys and is signed by both parties as well as the attorneys. This agreement is then approved by a judge.
In case the two parties cannot come to an agreement as to the terms of the modified divorce decree, the case is presented before a judge, or occasionally before a jury.
Suit for modification of decree
Depending on what terms need to be modified, the suit can be initiated by a person who is involved. For example, in some cases, even grandparents can initiate a suit for custody and thereby modification of the divorce decree.
Usually, the party seeking modification must show three basic elements, namely a change in circumstance that was unforeseen at the time, that the change in question is permanent and that the change is sufficiently large to necessitate a change in the terms of the divorce decree. Proving these points is the backbone of a legal proceeding.
Modification of divorce decree requires an experienced attorney
Changing the terms of a Colorado divorce decree needs experience and thoroughness so that there's no loophole that can be exploited in the future. In case of a court hearing, having an experienced attorney is even more important. Contact our Marrison law firm for a consultation with one of our attorneys.