A divorce can be a complex procedure. Even after all the issues have been agreed to, life changes can affect the original settlement agreement, or some issues may not have been clear at the time of the divorce. In such an event, it is possible to petition the court to have the original Settlement Agreement modified to suit new circumstances.
When Can a Divorce Settlement Get Modified?
As a rule, the division of assets agreed upon in the original Settlement Agreement is final, even if they don’t seem fair after the divorce has been finalized. That is one reason it is important to work with an experienced divorce attorney to help avoid any unpleasant post-divorce surprises.
However, it may be discovered that a party was not forthcoming and honest about his or her assets (i.e., did not reveal all bank accounts, retirement funds, etc.), or perhaps an honest mistake was made in determining the value of an item. In such an event, the court can and will review the matter considering the new information.
Modifications to Child Custody
Child custody issues can be the most prevalent reason for requesting a modification of the Settlement Agreement. These changes can include time and length or visitations. For example, a parent who has a new job with shorter hours may request more time with the children. Or if one parent is non-responsive to the children’s medical needs, the other parent may request to have full instead of shared responsibility of such matters by showing that the non-responsive parent is not acting in the children’s best interest.
What Are Causes for Settlement Agreement Modifications?
To convince a court to act on a modification request, the petitioning party needs to show that the changes in circumstances warrant it.
- If one party has remarried, such a change may affect visitation and/or support in important ways.
- A new job may justify an adjustment of the visitation schedule.
- The children may develop issues that require more care, such as medical treatment than was previously anticipated. For example, an expensive, necessary surgery, orthodonture, etc. may require an increase in child support
- If a parent moves further away from his or her previous home, the other parent needs to be informed if and how this affects the visitation schedule. Such a move requires the approval of the court.
- If a parent has legitimately lost his or her job, an adjustment in child support may be requested.
When major life changes happen to one or both of the parents, they are required to show the court that changes in the original Settlement Agreement are in the best interest of the children.
The purpose of spousal support is to help both parties maintain their previous lifestyle. If one or both parties experience a major financial change, such as getting or losing a job, the court can be petitioned with a request to modify the original spousal support amount. For example, if one party has remarried to someone wealthy or is living with someone else, the ex-spouse may request termination of all spousal support.
Changes in spousal support are dependent on changes in circumstances, the same as child support payments.
Other Issues That May Justify a Settlement Agreement Modification
While the original Settlement Agreement may remain justified, it is possible that one of the parties is not following the agreement as outlined, putting him or her in violation of court orders. In such an event, the court can be petitioned and may find the violating party in contempt.
A Divorce Settlement Agreement is a legally binding document that a divorcing couple agrees to and must abide by. However, when circumstances change following the approval of the Agreement, a court may be informed of the new circumstances and may agree to amend the original Agreement.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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