Can I Modify or Challenge my Divorce Decree?
A divorce decree, which makes findings in regard to all issues set forth by the parties (including child custody, child support and alimony) is a binding order of the Court. Once this document is executed by the Court its terms can be enforced by the Court through a contempt proceeding. It also becomes difficult, and in some circumstances impossible, to go back and change the terms once the period of appeal has expired.
The Court understands, however, that party’s circumstances can change over time. Consequently, if you have suffered a major life change you may be able to successfully request a modification of the decree.
If you have been ordered to pay child support and suffer a substantial loss in income through no fault of your own, you can ask the Court to modify your previous decree to lower your child support payment. Modification of alimony follows the same general principles and guidelines as a modification of child support.
It is also possible to modify child custody under certain circumstances. The overriding concern for the Court in custody matters will always be the best interest of the children. However, if one party becomes unfit to parent the children or one parties circumstances necessitate a change, the Court can consider the evidence presented and change custody should that change in custody be in the best interest of the children.
Finally, if the Court has made an error in its findings pertaining to the final decree, it could have long-lasting consequences for both parties. If you believe your decree contains an error you have the right to file various motions to ask the Court to reconsider the terms of the decree. These motions must be filed within the statutory time frames. Should you choose not to file these motions or if they are unsuccessful you may be able to file an appeal. An appeal would give you the opportunity to set forth the mistakes, to a higher Court, you believe the lower Court made in its findings.
If you believe that your circumstances have changed to the extent that a modification of your decree is warranted or if you wish to challenge the Court findings through the appeal process you need an experienced family law attorney to answer your questions. At Carlson & Burnett we strive to minimize the stress of dealing with these kinds of issues. If you want someone in your corner who has your best interests in mind please don’t hesitate to reach out.