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How final are Final Divorce Decrees?

Dear Clients and Friends,

A divorce decree is meant to be the "final" word in a dissolution of marriage for the sake of the parties, the children, the court and society so that all can predictably move on.

However, this does not mean that a divorce decree cannot be modified – they can be.

In general the court will entertain and grant modification requests if there is a significant change in the circumstances of the parties. Under the correct circumstances, “final” decrees will be modified in the areas of child support, custody, visitation and spousal support. Property issues for all intents and purposes do not get modified. The key issue in a modification request revolves around whether or not their has been a significant "Change in Circumstances.”

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 a change in an extant custody order.

To obtain a modification to a final divorce decree one must file with the court for a modification.

In general, It is best to wait for a reasonable period of time after the divorce is final to file. Courts may view modification motions that are filed shortly after the divorce suspiciously as it may appear that the moving party is only seeking an early retrial and this is not looked upon with any favor by the courts or even our federal and state laws.

The court process for obtaining a modification of a final decree can be confusing, challenging and risky. Best to work with an experienced family attorney for your best chance of success. As well this attorney can help you understand your options as well as your likelihood for success.

Do call us for a free phone evaluation of your or yours family law questions and concerns.

Best, Ron

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