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Modifying Divorce Decrees

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Are Divorce Decrees Final?

Divorce decrees are final, so court rulings cannot be re-decided. This does not mean that divorce decrees cannot be modified – they can be, but only if there is a significant change in the circumstances of the parties.

What Parts of the Decree Can Be Modified?

Generally, the court can change child support, parental rights, and alimony arrangements after a divorce decree. However, it is not usually possible to make changes to a final order that deals with property.

What Is a Change in Circumstance?

The guidelines for what is or is not a significant change in circumstances vary from state to state, and the decision to grant a modification is often a judgment call that the court must make. Common changes in circumstance include: 

  • Growth of children causing increased expenses in excess of child support agreement
  • Drastic change in custodial parent’s lifestyle requiring change in custody arrangement

How Can I Get a Modification?

To get a modification to a divorce decree you must file with the court for a change in the agreement. It is always best to wait for a considerable period after the divorce is final to be able to really prove that a significant change has occurred. Courts may view modification motions that are filed shortly after the divorce as suspicious, since it may appear as though the moving party is just trying to “do the divorce over again.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

The court process for obtaining a decree modification can be confusing and stressful, so it may be wise to meet with a family lawyer. Working with a family law attorney can help you understand your options and help make sure that the proper steps are taken to protect your rights and interests.

Photo of page author Matthew Izzi

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-08-2015 04:04 PM PDT

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