When a divorce is finalized, a final divorce decree will be enacted. This decree contains information regarding the rights and obligations of each spouse and includes the division of marital property, a spousal support order, child custody order, and child support order. As time passes, circumstances can change and although a divorce decree is a final decree, it can be modified if needed.
The terms set forth in a divorce decree related to child custody, child support, and spousal support are subject to change or be modified at a later date, if a significant or material change of circumstance occurs since the time the original decree was established. An experienced family law attorney can assist you with divorce decree modifications.
When Can You Modify a Court Order?
You or your ex-spouse may seek a divorce decree modification if new circumstances arise that may impact child custody, child support, or spousal support. Maryland courts will grant a divorce decree modification due to a significant change in circumstance, such as:
- Increase or decrease in income (by 25% or more) by either spouse
- Child’s financial or educational needs have increased or decreased due to age, change in health, or a disability
- Loss of a job
- Original order was influenced by fraud or concealment
- Unfit parenting status
Maryland courts will also warrant a modification due to fraud. An example would be if one spouse lied about assets or withheld key information during the divorce proceeding. Additionally, threats of violence or acts of violence could be grounds to petition for a modification.
How to Make a Child Support and/or Child Custody Modification
There are two ways you can obtain a child custody or child support modification. The first way is by requesting that the state enforcement office review your current custody and support orders. If a change would be in the best interests of the child, it may be warranted. The state enforcement office has the authority to make this decision, which can occur once every three years.
Second, either spouse can file a motion with the court to modify the divorce decree if a significant change in circumstances has occurred. If this can be proven, the court will order a new agreement.
How to Make a Spousal Support Modification
If you would like to obtain a modification to your spousal support agreement, the court will evaluate you and your spouse’s financial situations. A significant change in circumstances must occur to warrant a modification, which is typically an increase or decrease in income. When, due to no fault of their own, the spouse receiving spousal support has been unable to become financial sufficient by the time the original divorce decree expected, he/she may have a basis for a modification.
Can a Divorce Decree Modification Be Opposed?
A divorce decree modification can be opposed. The opposing party has every right to respond to the motion to modify an order and raise any issues that they have with the request.
How Long Does a Request for a Modification Take?
In general, a request for a modification can take 3 to 6 months to resolve. This does vary according to the court as well as the complexity of the case as well.
Should You Retain an Attorney for a Post-Divorce Modification?
The modification process could get complicated if your ex-spouse opposes your request. For peace of mind, it would be beneficial to seek the legal counsel of a seasoned lawyer. If you are wondering if you qualify for a modification of your divorce decree, contact the Law Office of Nicholas T. Exarhakis. We offer comprehensive family law services in Annapolis, MD, and surrounding areas.