What would life be like if you never had the option to correct mistakes or make adjustments? It would probably feel like a prison. Most people are under the misconception that agreements (contracts) are always irreversible or unmodifiable. This is pretty much the case for some agreements but certainly not every one of them. A kind of agreement that is modifiable is a – Divorce Decree/Divorce Agreement/Separation Agreement. This article looks to facilitate your understanding of how the practice of divorce modifications work and whether it is a viable option for you.
A brief and engaging discussion on divorce modifications cannot be complete without the definition of some terms. So, let’s get that out of the way –
Divorce Decree/Divorce Judgement
A divorce decree is a document issued by the court to finalize a divorce. In other words, there is no divorce until the court issues a divorce decree. The divorce decree is usually a documentation of the parties’ rights and obligations, much like a separation agreement.
Separation agreements can either merge, survive, or do both. Merged agreements are parts or all of the separation agreement that is fused in with the divorce judgment. When merging happens, the separation agreement is no longer an independent contract but a part of the divorce judgment.
Merged agreements in divorce are more easily modifiable by the relevant family court.
When parts or all of the separation agreements survive, they take on an independent legal contract’s status. Modifying terms in surviving divorce/separation agreements is a lot more complicated.
Why modify a divorce decree?
Divorce decrees and separation agreements (surviving agreements) are not perfect. Despite the time spent by all stakeholders in the divorce process, mistakes can still be made. When mistakes get made, adjustments become necessary.
More importantly, divorce modifications happen because of a changing or changed state of affairs. This change is typically with one of the divorced parties or the children of the divorced parties. There may be a change in partners or locations for the parents. There may also be a change in the medical or educational needs of a child.
For example, changes will need to be made to custody arrangements in a divorce decree if one spouse had to make a significant life change that may affect availability for an extended period.
General Requirements for Divorce Modifications
Change in Circumstances
Any party looking to modify a divorce decree in New York must prove a substantial change in circumstances. The exact wording may differ in jurisdictions worldwide, but the meaning is often the same – an important change in the current state of affairs must occur before any party can modify. Factors like loss of a job, a substantial increase in one partner’s income, and child needs change may constitute a substantial change.
Proving a substantial change in circumstances is not always as easy as it looks. It is more likely that you will prove your case if you have quality legal services.
There is no right or wrong time to modify a divorce decree. However, different jurisdictions around the United States have provisions for the earliest time to file for divorce modifications. In New York, changes to the Child Support Order can be made after three years.
Parts of a Divorce Decree That Can Be Modified
Remember Merged Agreements and Surviving Agreements?
A well-drafted application can convince the relevant court to make modifications to the divorce decree. Surviving agreements, on the other hand, take a lot more than an application for modification. The court will only modify surviving agreements in exceptional circumstances.
Divorce decrees are not easily modified. The difficulty level can even be higher, depending on the decree part that needs to be modified.
The parts of a divorce decree that are more likely subject to modifications are –
- Child Support Order : Child Support Order is money paid by a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent to cater to a child’s needs. Applications to modify child support orders can be made when there’s a substantial change in circumstances and within the appropriate time regulation.
- Custody and parental responsibilities
- Spousal Support/Alimony
It is important to note that modifications to marital property distribution are tough and can be scarcely made.
Conclusion: Divorce Modifications
The steps to take in modifying a divorce decree are easy and complicated. It is advisable that you first attempt to settle the issue out of court. The next step would be to identify the areas of the divorce decree you want to be modified where that is not feasible. Then comes the filling of forms, serving papers to the other party, and filling out forms.
Whatever your reasons for applying for a divorce modification in Rochester, NY, you will need legal experts’ services to help you get what you want.
Thankfully Cimino Law has all you want – the best lawyers to make sure your interests are protected!
Please get in contact with us today.
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