Can I Modify My Divorce Decree?
Even though your divorce seems final, there are certain circumstances that might allow you to change aspects of your divorce decree in Florida. When you experience dramatic life-changing events, it may be necessary to request this change.
It might be tempting to do this informally by trying to work out an agreement with your ex-spouse on the side. Unfortunately, the courts don’t look kindly on these agreements. They are not enforceable by the courts and could cause problems later should the relationship between you and your ex deteriorate.
Appealing a Florida Divorce
A Florida divorce appeal is not the same thing as a modification. If you aren’t happy with the terms of your divorce, you can appeal the decision. This is not a simple process, and there are specific time limits for making these appeals. A Florida family law attorney can explain your rights and options.
What Types of Events Qualify for Post-Divorce Modification?
Anyone who wants to modify a Florida divorce decree is required to show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the decree was entered. Florida law specifies that this would have to be a permanent and material change that wasn’t anticipated at the time of the divorce.
You may be able to get the courts to modify terms of your child support, custody, or alimony agreements depending on your circumstances. Some of the events that might qualify for a post-divorce modification include:
- A substantial change in income (usually 15% or more) or in the ability to make payments
- An unavoidable increase in health insurance or other healthcare costs for children or parents
- One parent moving a substantial distance from the other
- Remarriage or cohabitation of a spouse that is receiving alimony
How to Get a Post-Divorce Modification in Florida
There are just two ways to modify a divorce decree in Florida, whether dealing with alimony, child custody and visitation, or child support. You can come to a mutual agreement with the other party before you file your request, or you can file a petition for modification.
Obviously, the preferable way to handle a modification is for the two parties to agree to the new terms. This might take some time and negotiation, but it is worth the alternative. If you can’t agree, your attorney will file a petition for modification, which is similar to a lawsuit.
When both sides lack agreement, there is a much longer road ahead before these issues can be resolved. The party filing the petition will need to have the other side served and then wait 20 days for a response. There is a period of discovery, a mediation to try to settle the matter, and then a court hearing. If you end up in front of a judge, they will listen to all of the evidence and then make a decision on your case.
These cases sometimes have substantial delays if they have to go to hearing. If a judge approves a modification and there are payments due to one spouse or the other, these are generally retroactive to the date the petition was filed.
Increase Your Chances for Success With a Modification Request
The Florida family law courts will not grant every request for modification. You will have a much greater chance of success with your request if you can show that you have completely held up your end of the agreement since it was first approved. For example, you should adhere to scheduled payments and all custody or visitation agreements.
If your circumstances haven’t materially changed and you just have a dispute with your ex-spouse, the courts are not going to approve a modification request. If you are unsure about whether you qualify for a modification or if this is the right step for you, it’s a good idea to speak with a qualified family law attorney about your situation.
Get Help Now with a Florida Post-Divorce Modification
Although your original divorce decree reflected your life at one time, it may not accurately reflect your current circumstances. Even if you and your ex-spouse come to an agreement about certain changes, they must still be reflected in your official documents with the court system.
If you need to modify your divorce decree or oppose any changes, the experienced Florida family law attorneys at Spencer Law, P.A., can provide you with sound advice and will protect the interests of you and your loved ones.
Contact us now at 850-912-8080 or reach us online to schedule an initial consultation.