Whether the proceedings were civil or contentious, reaching a divorce settlement can feel like getting to the top of the mountain. You’ve made the trek, you fought to get to the peak, and now you can relax. However, life hardly ever waits for us to catch our breath. Things can change very quickly, and you may need to change the terms of your settlement.
Luckily, some aspects can be updated in your divorce decree to accommodate changes in your life. You can trust the Gentry Law Firm, based in Marietta, to help you take the necessary steps to modify your divorce decree without more hassle than necessary.
What is the Divorce Decree?
This can also be referred to as a “final judgment.” The decree is a formal document from the court that outlines the terms of your divorce. It details your custody arrangements for shared children, child support payment plans, asset and debt division, and alimony.
The decree will be issued by the judge who oversaw your case. They will have heard testimony from both parties involved and arranged the outcome equitably based on circumstances before and during the divorce process. What happens if those circumstances change after the divorce is finalized?
What Can Be Modified in a Divorce Settlement and When Does That Happen?
Certain outcomes established by the divorce decree can be modified in extenuating circumstances. Child support and alimony payments, specifically periodic or rehabilitative alimony, can be modified if there has been a substantial change in your or your ex’s financial circumstances. You can also ask to modify the decree if your child’s circumstances have changed.
Modifications can be requested once every two years.
There are various types of alimony in Georgia. Alimony isn’t mandatory in every divorce, but it can include periodic, rehabilitative, transitional, or lump sum payments. Periodic or rehabilitative alimony are the only types modifiable after a divorce decree.
- Periodic Alimony: As the name suggests, this payment is made in installments over time. There is a definitive length of time this alimony will last before you have to stop making payments.
- Rehabilitative alimony: A short-term measure to help spouses regain their feet after a divorce. These payments will help pay for school or training, so the spouse can compete in the job market.
Whether you’re making payments or expecting them, any change in finances should be addressed quickly. Alimony can be modified when:
- Your income has significantly changed
- Your spouse’s income has changed substantially
- One party is in a romantic relationship with someone they’re living with
Some divorce decrees specifically make alimony non-modifiable, so you can only modify your alimony if the divorce decree doesn’t expressly prohibit it. Even then, only the amount of alimony will change, not the period of time for the payments to be made.
Modifying Your Child Custody Decree
Changing the child custody plans or child support payments established in your divorce settlement is possible.
Your child custody plans can be modified if:
- Either parent has a significant change in income
- Either parent is relocating
- The child’s specific needs have changed
If you receive a raise at work or you lose your job, that change in income could affect your support payments or ability to take care of your child. A judge may consider altering your child custody plans based on how your life has changed.
What Do You Need to Modify Your Divorce Decree?
For the best chance of successfully modifying your divorce settlement, it will need to be proved that your life or your ex’s life has changed significantly.
If you’ve lost your job, your ability to make payments or care for your children has been impacted drastically, and your pink slip or severance package paperwork can be used as proof.
Suppose your ex has remarried, and you want to reduce the amount of alimony paid or eliminate it altogether. In that case, their marriage license can show that your obligation should be adjusted accordingly.
Phone records, photos, videos, or witness testimony can also prove any changes in either of your lives.
Filing Petitions to Modify Your Divorce Decree in Cobb County
Once you decide to modify your divorce decree, the appropriate paperwork must be filed. Depending on your circumstances, petitions for changing alimony or child support and custody must be completed.
These forms should be properly filled out, including the necessary information about you, your spouse, and the original decree.
They’ll be filed with your superior court.
How Can a Marietta Family Lawyer Help Me Modify My Divorce Decree?
Once you know your circumstances have changed after your divorce settlement is finalized, you should plan to adjust your expectations. Any payments you have to make shouldn’t impede your everyday life. If you’re caring for children, they need to be provided for, and their other parent should be held accountable.
A Marietta family lawyer can assist you as you work on updating your divorce decree. Finding a seasoned and empathetic attorney to examine your case and determine if your decree can be changed will help you get your footing. Your attorney will be able to interpret the original decree to clarify the best way to change the decree in a favorable manner.
Your lawyer can help you file the proper paperwork and work on an appeal if the court doesn’t give a positive judgment. Even if your divorce was relatively smooth, you probably don’t want to spend more time in court than necessary. The right family lawyer can expedite your modification process.
Call The Gentry Law Firm to Update Your Divorce Decree
If you need to change your divorce decree because of a major life change, do not hesitate to call the divorce lawyers at The Gentry Law Firm. We’re your Cobb County family law attorneys, and we can work to modify the terms of your divorce settlement.
Founder and attorney William Gentry has been practicing law since 1986. Our focus is family law, and our team brings the same level of empathy to all our cases. We know divorce can be confusing. Changing your decree is not something you should attempt alone. We can help.