A divorce can be a complex procedure. Life changes can alter the original settlement agreement, even after agreement on all issues. In such an event, it is possible to petition the court to have the original Settlement Agreement modified to suit new circumstances.
When is a Divorce Settlement Modifiable?
Typically, asset division from the original Settlement Agreement is final, even if it seems unfair post-divorce. That is one reason it is important to work with an experienced divorce attorney to help avoid any unpleasant post-divorce surprises.
But, one party might conceal assets, like undisclosed bank accounts or retirement funds. An honest mistake could also misvalue 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.
- Children might need more care than expected, such as medical treatment. For example, an expensive, necessary surgery, orthodonture, etc. may require an increase in child support
- If a parent relocates, they must inform the other parent about the impact on the visitation schedule. Such a move requires the approval of the court.
- If a parent genuinely loses their job, they can request a child support adjustment.
Major life changes to either parent require them to demonstrate the changes.
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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