Modifying a Divorce Decree

Marital SettlementCreated at the time of divorce, a divorce decree is meant to be a final resolution of all issues pertaining to a legal separation. The factors such as child support and alimony, however, are agreed upon based on the situation of the divorcing parties at the time. The state of Colorado therefore recognizes that there may be certain situations that require a change or modification to the divorce decree, particularly for the issues of custody and support.

The good news is that if approved in court, it is indeed possible to make modifications to your divorce decree. In order to do this, you must be able to prove that there exists a significant and ongoing change of circumstances since the decree was first given. There are no set guidelines on what can be considered as an acceptable change of circumstances, but common examples include relocation to another state, remarriage, a severe change in lifestyle of the custodial parent, a substantial change in income, growth of children leading to an increase in expenses, or problems associated with the proper care of the minor children.

Another factor in the approval of a modification request is your behavior. Have you been obedient to the initial divorce decree so far? If you miss designated time with your children or have a history of being late with your child support payments, you are hurting your chances of getting your modification request approved. You should always strive to be a model parent and be proactive in all aspects of raising your children. Your behavior may also include the manner in which you resolve disputes and grievances with your ex-spouse.

Modifications to the divorce decree may be filed any time after the final order has been given. It must be noted though that it is rare for a modification to be granted if it is filed less than a year after the divorce has been finalized. The court may believe that not enough time has passed for a significant change of circumstance to occur. As such, it would be in your best interest to wait an extended period of time before filing for a modification. Once a reasonable period of time has passed since the divorce, almost all financial and custodial issues relating to the children may be subject to alteration.

Sometimes, spouses may be tempted to take matters into their own hands and make verbal agreements or adjustments to their divorce decree. While this informal arrangement may seem much easier compared to filing for modifications in court, parties need to remember that the original agreement is still legally binding. A spouse found to be disobeying their divorce decree may be held in contempt of court and end up behind bars.

In order to legally modify a divorce decree without going to court, both parties may opt to arrive at an agreement drafted by their attorneys. Both parties and their attorneys must sign this agreement, and then submit this to the judge for approval. If both parties are unable to agree to the modified terms, the case must still be presented before the judge.