What Are Post-Judgement Divorce Modifications?
Is a divorce judgement truly final? In many cases, no. There are situations where certain assets were left out of the final judgement yet are still contested by both parties. In other cases, changes are needed because the current judgement is no longer sufficient.
This is where post-judgement divorce modifications come in. These modifications are actually quite common, especially when it comes to child custody and spousal support. However, modifications do come with restrictions.
When Can a Divorce Judgement Be Modified?
There are many scenarios in which a post-judgement modification may be pursued:
- Children / family members moving away, affecting current custody arrangements.
- Children getting older / not requiring the same levels of supervision as before.
- Child financial support needs have changed.
- Daily schedules have changed, and visitation times need to be adjusted as a result.
- Job loss / changes in financial situation that make current support payments impossible.
- Spouse receiving spousal support wins the lottery, marries or undergoes a financial change where they no longer need support.
In the event that an asset went ignored in the initial divorce judgement, it becomes an “unadjudicated asset.” A post-judgment modification can be requested in order to properly divide any unadjudicated assets.
It should be noted that a divorce judgment regarding property or debt issues cannot usually be modified, except in the event of fraud or in cases when important information was concealed during the divorce. There must be proof of this in order for the modification to be passed, and there are strict time limits for seeking relief.
The Modification Process
The beginning of the modification process will depend on whether or not the attorney involved was the same attorney during the divorce. Naturally, the modification process can progress much quicker if it is the same legal team. Otherwise, they will need to be caught up on what happened during the divorce and why the judgement was made.
A case will need to be made for all post-judgement modifications. In the state of California, this means filing a Request for Order or “RFO.” Just like a petition to divorce, the RFO is filed in court, resulting in a hearing date (at least a month away or more). Evidence for why the modification should be made will need to be gathered and disclosed during this time, and a meeting is often set up between the two divorced parties.
If the parties can agree on the modification via a Mediation or Collaborative process, then the next step is agreeing when the change is to become effective. (There is usually no retroactive relief, so the RFO should be filed at the earliest possible date.) If the modification is contested by one party, then the process will take longer and may proceed through Litigation. Either way, the modified judgement must be signed by a court judge.
How Long Does the Modification Process Take?
The good news is that the modification process does not last nearly as long as the process to divorce. The exact amount of time it takes will vary depending on the circumstances and whether or not both parties are in agreement. However, most post-judgement modifications can be finalized in under three months, in some cases just weeks. Once the post-judgement modification is approved, it replaces the former order on the date it is set to become active.