What Circumstances Justify Modifying Divorce Orders?
It’s not unusual for ex-spouses to want to change a prior decree respecting issues of custody and support. When a divorce settlement is no longer relevant for a couple or does not fit the needs of their children, it is possible to alter the terms of it through a post-decree modification.
Generally speaking, a divorce can take weeks, or even months to finalize. Once the legal proceedings are complete, a final divorce decree will be issued, which officially documents the terms of the divorce. But, life goes on and things change eventually no matter what the Divorce Agreement or Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time say.
A party seeking to modify their decree must show a substantial and continuing change of circumstances.
Modifying an Order
Broadly speaking, there are two ways that former spouses can seek to modify the terms of their divorce in Illinois. These are:
- By agreement, and
- By court order.
The first option for modifying the terms of your divorce is by agreeing to a modification with your former spouse. In other words, you and your spouse already agree to the modifications proposed, in which case you can file a joint petition – which could present the opportunity to not have to go to court.
The second option is if you and your ex-spouse don’t agree on the modification. If this is the case, you’ll need to file a complaint for modification and have your ex served. The process then goes through the court system until you reach an agreement or have a trial.
Change of Circumstances and Modification
General dissatisfaction with the outcome of the divorce is not a sufficient cause to modify the terms of the divorce decree. Therefore, if later down the line you feel you got a bad deal or the judge ruled unfairly, you might not have cause to petition a change. However, if you can demonstrate a substantial change of circumstances, a judge may consider your motion to modify.
There are numerous reasons parties may seek modification of a divorce decree. Some of the most common reasons for requesting the court modify the terms of a divorce include:
- Change in financial situation for the support-paying party, including job loss, reduced pay, or disability;
- Change in child custody or parenting time due to relocation of child or parent, alleged abuse or unfitness of custodial parent, or refusal of one parent to comply with terms of parenting plan; or
- Change in the financial status of the non-paying party, such as a significant salary increase, remarriage, or large inheritance.
[Property division orders, however, are almost never modifiable in Illinois.]
A judge is looking for evidence showing that the change is not temporary, minimal, or self-inflicted. For example, if you quit your job because you simply did not like your boss, a judge is not likely to grant a modification of child support. Deciding what constitutes a “substantial” change of circumstances can be difficult. Seeking the advice of an experienced divorce lawyer before filing a motion to modify a divorce decree can save you time and money.
Divorce Modification with Masters Law Group
Regardless of why you are seeking a post-judgment modification, and regardless of whether your former spouse are in agreement, you need to comply with your existing divorce judgment unless and until your requested modification receives court approval. Deviating from the terms of your existing judgment can get you into trouble with the court, and it can potentially make it more difficult to obtain a post-judgment modification as well.
If you’re trying to modify an Illinois family law order or your ex-spouse is attempting to allege a substantial change in circumstances, contact the divorce attorneys at Masters Law Group. We have extensive experience in handling the complete range of post-decree modification cases, including parenting time, allocation of parental responsibilities and child support modifications.
Contact us here today to set up a complimentary consultation.