Divorce is an emotionally and financially challenging process. When you finally obtain your divorce decree, it can bring a mixture of feelings, including grief, uncertainty, relief, and hope for the future. However, it is important to remember that obtaining your divorce decree may not mean you will never see or hear from your ex-spouse again, especially if the two of you have children. You may also need to interact in the future if you discover unfair or untenable elements of your divorce decree or if you discover evidence that changes the nature of your divorce order.
Family law is unique compared to other types of civil law in that it is possible to renegotiate elements of a family court order without an appeals process. Typically, a judgment from the civil court is set in stone and exceedingly difficult to change. However, the family court systems of Oklahoma acknowledge that family court orders pertain to everyday life, and life circumstances can change. As a result, it is possible under certain conditions to renegotiate or adjust terms of your family court order with a post-judgment modification.
Post-Judgment Modification to Your Divorce Order
If you have a divorce order, child custody agreement, or other family court order that you believe warrants reevaluation, it is possible to petition the Tulsa, OK family court for modification to the order. Once you identify an issue that may alter your existing family court order, you may submit a petition for modification to the family court. The court will then evaluate your petition and supporting evidence before scheduling a hearing date.
The hearing will typically require the presence of the petitioner and the other party involved in the family court order in question. For example, if you petition the court for a reduced amount of child support after losing your job, the court will notify your coparent and schedule a hearing to allow both of you to make your respective cases. Then, a judge will consider the evidence set forth and make a ruling regarding the potential modification.
What Grounds Warrant a Modification?
Although not all family court orders are eligible for modification, circumstances exist that allow post-judgment modifications to child support, child custody, and spousal support agreements. There are several grounds that might warrant a post-judgment modification to a Tulsa, OK family court order:
- If you need to increase the amount of child support you receive, you can ask the court to alter your child support arrangement and evaluate your new financial situation to determine a more appropriate amount. For example, if you recently discovered that your child has a medical condition that requires consistent, expensive treatment, you can file a petition for increased support to account for their new level of living expenses.
- If you pay child support and are unable to meet your financial obligations, you can petition the court to have your child support obligation reduced under certain conditions, such as a medical emergency or loss of your job. It is also possible to have the court address misuse of the child support you pay to your coparent if you discover that they have failed to meet your children’s basic needs.
- If you discover that your children’s other parent has violated the terms of your custody agreement, it is possible to secure a modification to your custody agreement and secure greater child custody rights.
- You can petition for termination of your child support obligations if your child has been legally emancipated.
- If you pay your ex-spouse alimony and discover that they have done any terminating action, such as remarrying or cohabitating with a new romantic partner, you can file a petition to have your alimony obligations terminated.
These are just a few examples of situations that might justify the filing of a post-judgment motion. Some violations of your divorce decree may warrant post-judgment modification, while others could even justify contempt proceedings against your ex. It is also possible to petition the court for a reissued divorce order under specific conditions.
How to Obtain a New Divorce Decree
Post-judgment modification typically pertains to child custody rights, child support obligations, and spousal maintenance agreements. However, property division determinations in divorce generally do not qualify for modification. It is only possible to alter your property division agreement if you discover that your spouse intentionally hid assets and the existing order is incomplete and/or unfair.
If you can provide material evidence that your original property division determination was unfair or incomplete, the judge overseeing the matter may issue a new decree while taking the previously hidden financial information into consideration. Additionally, financial malfeasance such as lying or obfuscating during a financial disclosure will likely lead to some type of penalty for the party responsible. For example, if you reveal that your spouse hid assets from your equitable distribution proceedings, the judge may revisit the original property division determination to reflect their fraudulent behavior.
Why You Need Legal Counsel for Modification
Modifying your divorce order may seem like a straightforward issue you can handle on your own. However, the reality is that you need legal counsel if you intend to amend your child support agreement, child custody rights, or a spousal maintenance agreement. Ideally, it is best to work with the same attorney who represented you during your divorce. This attorney will already be familiar with many of the specifics of your case and can provide personalized legal counsel.
The post-judgment modification process typically consists of the submission of your petition, the response, and then a single hearing so the judge can decide on the issue. However, this hearing may be more involved than you initially expect. Further, it can be difficult to predict whether your ex will be forthcoming with necessary information.
Should you need to alter your family court order in any way, it is crucial to work with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process. If you are unsure whether you have solid grounds for filing a post-judgment motion, contact an experienced Tulsa, OK family law attorney as soon as possible for professional assistance with the matter.