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Should you seek a modification in your divorce decree?

Circumstances change in every person's life, whether married, single or divorced. The difference is that when you are divorced, you may need the court's approval to make changes to certain aspects of your life. This is called a modification. When you are getting your divorce, the courts look at your present situation to lay out the decisions of custody, support and property division. When situations change, children get older or you get another job, for example, you can ask for a modification.

Spousal support

Spousal support is a modifiable change, unless in the original agreement, it is non-modifiable. If you are asking to change spousal support, you have to demonstrate a significant change in circumstances. It could be a job injury or loss that caused your income to change dramatically.

Property division

Courts are reluctant to make changes in the property division of your assets unless you can show your spouse hid property or you were pressured into signing the documents that divided your property.

Child support and custody

Most divorce modifications revolve around children. Child support is modifiable, but as with spousal support, there must be a "substantial change in circumstances." The courts may require this change to be more than just normal life changes. A judge would probably consider a job loss or injury a significant change in circumstances, but the court might not modify child support if you were buying a house.

Child custody modifications are also possible, but it would have to be in the best interests of the child before the court would allow it. If one parent was allowing the child to be exposed to drugs and alcohol, the court would certainly consider a change in custody. If one parent is moving out of state, the custody and visitation arrangements could be modified.

Working together is best for the children

If you and your spouse can agree on modifications, it can be simple to file a new plan with the court. However, as President Woodrow Wilson once said, "If you want to make enemies, try to change something." Most courts agree that children need stability but also know the same parenting plan that worked when the child was five will not necessarily work when the child is 13.

Before making modifications to your divorce decree, ask yourself why. When you know what you are doing is in the best interest of the children, talk to your attorney about the best way to proceed. It often depends on your relationship with the other parent and your children.

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