Help with Post-Decree Modification
What is Post-Decree Modification?
After a divorce is finalized, there may be changing circumstances that demand alterations to the divorce agreement. These alterations are known as post-decree modifications. They are motions requested by either party after a divorce, either as a reflection of changing circumstances or a breach of contract between the ex-spouses.
Post-decree modifications can affect the following family law issues:
- Child Custody: Circumstances may change, requiring adjustments to the custody arrangement or the visitation schedule. This could include changes in a parent's work schedule, relocation, or the child's evolving needs.
- Child Support: Changes in income, employment status, or financial circumstances of either parent can warrant a modification in child support payments. This could involve an increase or decrease in the amount of support provided.
- Alimony: Changes in either party's financial situation, such as a significant increase or decrease in income or changes in employment status, can lead to a request for modification of alimony payments.
- Relocation: If one parent wishes to move a significant distance away, it may necessitate modifications to the parenting plan to accommodate the new circumstances.
- Healthcare and Insurance: Changes in health insurance coverage or healthcare needs of the child may require modifications to the existing court orders.
The ideal divorce is final in every sense of the word—a good divorce agreement does not need alteration. Continuing litigation is never ideal, even for the person that initiates it. However, it is sometimes necessary. For example, a spouse may lose his or her job or require more to support themselves. Sudden loss or gain of assets would justify a modification to the alimony agreement.
In the event that the two parties in dispute are parents, the court may assign a Guardian Ad Litem. A Guardian Ad Litem is a neutral party that solely represents the interests of the child, regardless of who has custody. They may interview both parents in order to help the court determine how they should respond.
What is Considered a Significant Change in Circumstances?
As we mentioned earlier, a "significant and continuing change in circumstances" refers to substantial alterations or events that have occurred since the issuance of the original court order (such as a divorce decree) that directly affect the aspects covered by that order. These changes must be meaningful enough to warrant a review and potential modification of the original decree.
Here are some examples of what could be considered significant and continuing changes in various aspects of Colorado family law:
- Financial Changes:
- Income Change: A substantial increase or decrease in income of one or both parties that affects the ability to pay or receive child support or alimony.
- Job Loss or Change: Losing a job, changing careers, or experiencing a significant change in employment status that affects financial stability.
- Expenses: A substantial increase in expenses related to child care, healthcare, or other essential needs that impact the ability to comply with the court order.
- Relocation or Change in Living Circumstances:
- Relocation: A move by one parent that significantly impacts the current custody or visitation arrangement.
- Changes in Living Conditions: Drastic changes in living conditions that directly impact the well-being of the child, such as unsafe environments or housing instability.
- Child's Needs or Circumstances:
- Health Issues: A child developing health issues or special needs that require additional care or financial support.
- Educational Needs: Changes in the child's educational requirements that necessitate adjustments in custody or support arrangements.
- Parenting Ability or Behavior:
- Substance Abuse: Evidence of substance abuse or issues related to a parent's behavior affecting the child's safety and well-being.
- Domestic Violence: Instances of domestic violence or abusive behavior impacting the child's safety.
- Changes Over Time:
- Consistent Changes: Changes that have persisted for a significant period and are expected to continue, not just temporary fluctuations.
- Evolution of Child's Needs: The natural growth and development of the child, leading to different needs as they age.
For a court to consider modifying a previous order, the party requesting the modification typically needs to prove that the change meets the criteria of being both significant and continuing. Providing evidence and documentation supporting these changes is crucial when filing a petition for modification. Colorado family courts prioritize the best interests of the child and the fairness of the arrangements when considering such modifications.
Filing for Post-Decree Modification in Colorado
Filing for a post-decree modification in Colorado involves the following steps and adherence to specific legal procedures:
- Determine Eligibility for Modification: Evaluate if your situation meets the criteria for a modification based on significant and continuing changes in circumstances since the original decree. Ensure that the changes directly impact the issues covered in the decree, such as child custody, support, or alimony.
- Gather Necessary Information and Documentation: Collect evidence that supports the significant changes you're claiming. This might include financial records, proof of income changes, documentation of job loss or relocation, medical records, or any other relevant information.
- File a Petition for Modification: Prepare a formal petition for modification specifically tailored to your situation. This document outlines the changes in circumstances and the modifications you are seeking in the existing court order. File the petition with the same court that issued the original decree. Ensure you pay the necessary filing fees.
- Serve the Other Party: Serve the petition and accompanying documents to the other party (ex-spouse or co-parent) involved in the case. Proper service is crucial to ensure they are aware of the modification request.
- Negotiation or Mediation (if applicable): Some courts may require parties to attempt negotiation or mediation before proceeding to a hearing. This step aims to reach an agreement without a court decision.
- Court Hearing: If negotiation or mediation doesn’t result in an agreement, or if it's not a required step, the court will schedule a hearing. Both parties present their cases, provide evidence, and argue their positions regarding the requested modifications. The judge evaluates the evidence presented and makes a decision based on the best interests of the child (if involving child-related matters) and fairness of the proposed modifications.
- Court Order: If the court grants the modification, a new court order will be issued outlining the changes to the original decree.
It's important to note that legal procedures might vary based on the specific circumstances of each case and the local court rules. Seeking guidance from a family law attorney specializing in Colorado law can be beneficial. An attorney can help navigate the legal process, ensure proper documentation, and represent your interests effectively in court.
How Our Post-Divorce Modification Lawyers Can Help
The end goal for post-decree modification is to resolve changes quickly and decisively, allowing both parties to move on with their lives. Our family law attorneys at The Harris Law Firm have 250 years of combined experience and can help simplify a potentially difficult process. Our experienced lawyers have a firm understanding of Colorado family law and have honed their skills through the 8,000+ family law clients they have helped. Each attorney is backed by the years of experience and understanding that the whole firm possesses.
We are skilled negotiators, but in the event that your needs and rights are being ignored, we are also aggressive trial lawyers. We seek nothing less than the absolute best results for you and your loved ones. Do not hesitate to contact us for all of your needs regarding post-decree modification.
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