Divorce Modification: My divorce is finalized, can I modify anything?

Getting that final divorce decree can result in a wide variety of emotions including relief, sadness, frustration, confusion or regret. If you entered into an agreement, you may wonder if you would have been better off going to trial. If the judge issued a decision, you may think they got it horribly wrong. Can you get a divorce modification? Maybe you have found new evidence or your situation has changed since the entry of the decree. Whether you have just received the decree or it has been several years, there may be things you are interested in changing. This article will discuss what you can change and what you cannot.

  1. Property Division.
    • Normally, property division cannot be changed. The exception to the rule depends of whether you have just found newly discovered properties or properties that were discussed in the hearing were not divided in the original decree. If you want to change the division of property, you will need to contact an attorney immediately. Time is of the essence and remember the general rule is that property division cannot be divided.
  1. Child Support.
    • Child support can be modified whenever there is a change in circumstances that would affect the child support amount by more than 15%. This means that a change to your income, your ex’s income, health insurance costs, child care costs, how many other children you have, parenting time and extraordinary expenses could all mean that you are entitled to a change in child support. Something else to keep in mind is that the child support guidelines change every three years or so. In fact, the Arizona child support guidelines are scheduled to change in July 2015. Make sure to consult an attorney or CDLP at Access Legal to determine whether you are eligible for a change in child support and what that change would mean for you and your children.
  1. Legal Decision making and Parenting Time.
    • You can seek a modification of legal decision making and parenting time, by filing a petition to modify anytime twelve months after the entry of the last parenting time order, or six months after the entry of the last order if your ex is not exercising the parenting plan according to the decree or parenting plan. If you would like to make a change sooner, you may be able to seek a clarification of the existing plan for items that you would like in the plan that have been left off.
    • Other alternatives to modifying legal decision making and parenting time include seeking a specific ruling on an issue that you and your ex do not agree about, or seeking a parenting coordinator if there is ongoing conflict.
  1. Spousal Maintenance.
    • Spousal maintenance or alimony may or may not be modifiable depending on the original decree. Many times, an agreement entered into by the parties may be non-modifiable and an order entered by a judge is modifiable under the statute. Under the statute, a change in circumstances for either the payor or the recipient can trigger the possibility of modifying your spousal maintenance. The person seeking the modification has the burden of proof for showing that the modification is necessary.
  2. Other terms:
    • Other pieces of the decree, like a finding of waste or value of a business is not “modifiable” but may be appealable. To seek an appeal, you should consult with an attorney, who can either help you appeal the decision or get you instructions on how to appeal the decree yourself.

A final decree is rarely the last step in your family law journey. If you have young children, it is almost certain that parenting time and child support will be modified at some point. The thought of modifying the decree may be overwhelming and daunting. For specific assistance with your modification, contact us today.

If you have additional questions or you need a modification, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 480-649-2905.