Has Your Situation Changed Following Divorce? You May Be Able to Modify the Provisions of Your Prior Agreement.
You might think your divorce decree is set in stone. But that’s far from the truth. A lot can change in your life after your divorce is finalized. If the changes after your divorce add up to a significant change in circumstances, it may be to your benefit to speak with a New Jersey divorce lawyer who handles post-divorce modifications.
Whether the change relates to your income or expenses, your children’s development, or a move brought on by a career opportunity or family need, we can help you explore modifications and petition the court on your behalf if a modification is in your best interests.
Contact Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC to discuss your situation with an experienced family lawyer from our firm and to educate yourself on some options. Call us at (201) 880-9770.
Modifications to Agreements after a Divorce
Life is never static. A lot of things can happen after you are divorced. Your job situation may have changed, and your income may have increased or decreased. You may have gotten remarried and/or had another child. Or perhaps you or your ex-spouse is living with someone else in a romantic relationship. Maybe you want or need to move to a different state or country because of a job change, to care for a family member who needs help, or for another significant reason.
When there is a change in circumstances for you, your ex-spouse or your children, you might be able to get a post-divorce modification of the terms and provisions of your prior agreement by petitioning the New Jersey court or at least trying to negotiate with your ex. If the judge agrees that your changed life situation or that of your ex-spouse or children is significant enough to warrant a change (and if the change is in a child’s best interests, when children are involved), it may be granted.
How Can You Modify Agreements Drafted in a Divorce?
While you are not required to have an attorney to modify a divorce order, if your divorce was contested and contentious, you stand a better chance of getting the outcome you want with strong legal representation. Even if you were agreeable with your ex-spouse the first time around, that may not be the case when you are seeking a modification.
Our New Jersey attorneys help with post-divorce modifications that include:
Altering child custody and parenting time.
A judge will consider altering legal and physical or residential child custody based on a significant change in circumstances and what’s in the children’s best interests. In some cases, a parent who has had only a small amount of parenting time may want to request more time with their child when their situation has changed. In other cases, residential custody, which is who the child physically lives with more often throughout the year, might change, depending on new events that have evolved since the original divorce Or perhaps something happened in relation to the other parent that has caused you concern about your children’s health and safety. In this case, you may need to determine whether it is appropriate to ask the court to decrease the other parent’s time with them or seek supervised visitation for them.
A child’s permanent relocation.
When one parent needs or wants to permanently relocate, whether that is to a different state, country, or even a different county within your current state (if the distance is far), that parent will need permission to permanently remove the child or children. Relocation is a sensitive area, and our attorneys can help you understand New Jersey guidelines related to relocation and how your current custody and visitation arrangement will be affected by the move and if a child custody modification is needed.
Increasing or decreasing child support.
Child support might need to increase or decrease if a parent’s income or financial circumstances have substantially changed. To potentially recalculate child support, the judge will determine whether there was a material change and whether that change is temporary or permanent. Then, the recalculation of the support begins to align with the current situation. Recalculation of child support sounds straightforward, but it actually isn’t. This is true especially if you one or both parents are high wage earners or there are unique circumstances and needs of your child that need to be addressed from a financial standpoint.
Termination of child support.
If a court approves a minor child’s emancipation from you and their other parent, then any child support obligation related to that child ends. The definition of emancipation is governed either by your divorce agreement or in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.67, termination of obligation to pay child support. There are many exceptions to emancipation, so it is best to speak with one of our New Jersey family law attorneys to truly understand whether your particular situation qualifies.
Increasing, decreasing, or terminating alimony (spousal support).
In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to terminate, suspend, or modify alimony payments. If you want to increase or decrease alimony, you have to prove that there has been an involuntary and “permanent” substantial financial change of circumstances. On the other hand, if your ex-spouse’s financial situation has significantly changed for the better or she remarried or is cohabitating with someone else, then you may be eligible to terminate or suspend your alimony. These kinds of situations are not straightforward, so you will want to speak with an attorney to truly understand your options and the costs involved.
Medical expenses reimbursement.
This is one area that our attorneys deal with a lot. If your divorce agreement explains what portion of the unreimbursed medical expenses you and your ex should pay, but one person is not paying their share, then you can file an enforcement application with the court to compel the other side to reimburse. Or perhaps the arrangement as to who is going to cover your child under their health insurance plan is no longer practical or cost effective for one reason or another. For help enforcing the agreement or negotiating a change to arrangements with your ex, reach out to our attorneys.
How to Ask the Court for Agreement Modifications after a Divorce
To ask the court for agreement modifications after a divorce, you’ll have to file a motion. In most situations, you will file the motion in the same court where you got your divorce. But this is not always the case. If you and/or your spouse have moved from the state where you originally divorced, then you may want to get legal guidance about which state would be the appropriate one in which to file your modification order.
A motion is simply a written request to the judge explaining what you are seeking, along with your reason or “story” as to why you need the post-divorce modification. To help influence the judge to rule in your favor, you will need to clearly show why you need the change. The more documentation you have to support your request, the better. Your documentation should be attached to the post-judgment motion request for modification.
There are other court forms that may have to be submitted with your application, depending on what you are seeking to modify. Be sure to attach those forms as well or the court may throw out your application.
Other Forms That May Be Required for a Post-Divorce Modification
Depending on what you are asking for and why, there are other forms you might have to file along with the motion:
- Notice to Litigants: You must fill out this form and serve it to your ex-spouse with a copy of the motion and proposed order.
- Confidential Litigant Information Sheet: You have to use this form every time you file new documents with the court.
- Certification: You must provide the court with true statements regarding why you believe it should approve your motion. You’ll include copies of the previous orders with this certification.
- Certification of Filing and Service: This form tells the court that you served your ex with the paperwork for this motion.
- Case Information Statement: If you’re asking for financial relief, you must complete this form, too. However, be careful with this one. Sometimes you do not have to provide this right away, and there may be reasons you don’t want to. Talk to an attorney to see if you fall under one of the exceptions.
- Letter to the Clerk & Filing Fee: You complete and include this form with all your other documents when you file the motion with the clerk of the court. This is the first page of your packet of forms.
You can see that asking for a post-divorce modification can be a bit confusing when you are not familiar with the paperwork and filing process. Our knowledgeable attorneys at Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC can help you determine which forms to include with your application filing. Call us at (201) 880-9770 for help.
Steps Involved in Filing for Post-Divorce Modifications
In addition to including the right paperwork, filing a motion involves several steps that must be properly carried out. They include:
Meeting specific court dates. In New Jersey, depending on the county, there are pre-set motion dates. There are also pre-set timelines that everyone must adhere to. You must file your motion 24 days before the court date. The other side must respond 15 days before the court date, and the final reply is due eight days before the court date. There are also court rules surrounding the procedure, such as service of process and how many copies you must provide to the other side (and vice versa). can be granted, but you have to have the consent of the other party or his/her attorney.
Paying mandated filing fee. When you file a motion, there is a court-mandated filing fee. Be sure to call the court or look online to determine the correct amount of the filing fee to ensure that you have the most updated amount. Or if you work with our attorneys on your post-divorce modification, we will handle this detail for you.
Serving the other side. You must deliver, or “serve,” two copies of the motion and proposed order to the other side. They must get their copy at least 24 days before the hearing date. If they do not, there is a good chance that the court will adjourn or postpone the court date to allow both sides enough time to review the motion and respond. Either side can ask for an adjournment or postponement from the court itself, but also must call the other side (unless there is a final restraining order (FRO) in place) to seek consent first.
Contact an Experienced New Jersey Divorce Lawyer
Instead of navigating the motion process yourself or trying to respond to a motion you receive from your ex, contact an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer. We know how to successfully file or respond to a motion for a post-divorce modification. The most important thing here is to make sure you follow the court rules so that the application does not get kicked out and you are back to square one. Also, how you present your situation, the facts, and the proof, is extremely critical to give you the best shot at success, or the best shot in defending your ex’s modification application against you.
When Will a Judge Modify a Court Order?
Prior to your scheduled court date, the judge and his or her staff will review all the documentation submitted. You and your ex-spouse will have an opportunity to highlight your side of the story and the reason for your request in person on the court date verbally. The judge may ask some follow-up questions of you and/or your ex and will certainly ask whether the two of you attempted to work this out on your own before seeking intervention from the court. Be prepared to answer that, and if you say no, be prepared to tell the court why no one tried. Most of the time, judges will make a ruling on the post-divorce modification motion that same day unless there is something else the judge needs to make the decision. If that’s the case, the judge will request the additional information. There are some judges that after they review your documentation and/or hear your verbal arguments, will order you to attempt to mediate the issues first. So, don’t be surprised if this happens to you either. You may want to consult with an attorney to determine what scenario will be most likely in your particular case. If mediation is a viable option, definitely speak with an attorney to be selective about what mediator would be best for your particular set of circumstances and give you the best shot at an acceptable outcome.
No Two Modifications to Agreements after a Divorce Are the Same
Every situation is different. No two modification filings or reasons for filings are the same. Our New Jersey divorce attorneys can evaluate your situation and help you understand whether a post-divorce modification will help you reach your goals and guide you through the process of petitioning the court. We can also defend your interests if a petition to change court orders has been filed against you.
Do You Need a Modification, Enforcement, or an Appeal?
There are different ways of potentially changing outcomes in court decisions pertaining to divorce.
As we have been discussing, if something after your divorce has changed, like your income, visitation, or your marital status, you may be eligible for a modification of the prior agreement. We can advise you about your options for modifying or defend you if you don’t want an agreement changed.
If nothing has changed, but the other party is not adhering to the terms of the prior agreement, you can file a request with the court to have the previous agreement enforced. Our attorneys can assist you with having the prior agreement enforced.
Finally, if you disagree with a decision a judge made in your divorce, talk with a New Jersey divorce lawyer about appealing the decision to the higher court. You must do this immediately because there is a very strict narrow window that you have to even file an appeal. If you miss the window, you are out of luck regardless if you have a good appealable issue. Speaking of which, you cannot appeal simply because you didn’t agree with the Court’s decision or your are unhappy. The Court must have done something wrong by law or under the law. Our attorneys would need to review the entire case history and the transcripts of your recent court appearance to assess whether you even have a viable appeal. You may. You may not. Hence, speaking with an attorney immediately is critical.
Bottom line is that Appeals are not made casually. You can appeal only if there was an error applying the law or other issues of law.
Schedule a Consultation with a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer
When you were first divorced, the agreements that were put in place may have worked for you and your ex-spouse. But many things in life can change, and you can file for a modification anytime you have new, significant circumstances that were not in place at the time of your divorce decree. If the judge determines that your changed situation does, in fact, warrant a modification, your issue will be further addressed with the Court. This, however, doesn’t mean you win everything you asked for. The Judge will explore what you want, the reasons the other side is opposing it, and try to determine the outcome the Judge feels is relatively fair. If the modification request is related to children, their best interests will be the main determination in granting a change in the prior agreement.
If you need help with a modification request or enforcing an existing order, call (201) 880-9770 or reach out online to speak with an attorney at Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC. We have years of experience dealing with post-divorce issues of modification and enforcement.