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Modification of Decrees
If you find yourself earning less income, or your ex has a larger earning potential, we can help you file a modification to adjust past decrees.
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Decree Modification Lawyers for Fathers

Key Takeaways

  • You can modify the child support, child custody, and spousal support provisions of a divorce decree.
  • You must show that a “substantial and continuing change in circumstances” has occurred since the decree took effect in most modification cases.
  • Any change to child support or child custody must be in the best interest of the child.
A smiling father crouches to his daughters level, who is holding a flower; both are happily interacting in a sunny, outdoor park setting.

Former spouses sometimes need to make changes to the terms of a divorce like child support, child custody, or spousal maintenance. This might occur after someone experiences a significant change in their life, such as moving to a new state or experiencing a job loss. Family laws in every state have procedures for post-divorce modifications of divorce decrees and other court orders.

Whether you are struggling with support payments or unhappy with your custody arrangement, the family law attorneys at Cordell & Cordell are ready to help you fight to change your decree. Learn when you may apply for a modification, how the process works, and how Cordell & Cordell can help in your fight for a fair decree.

What Parts of a Divorce Decree Can Be Modified?

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The following terms of your divorce may be subject to modification:

  • Spousal support: You can ask a court to modify the amount of your alimony payments or terminate your support obligation unless the judgment or state law says it is non-modifiable.
  • Child support: You can request modification of the amount or termination of your child support payments.
  • Child custody: Both legal and physical custody may be subject to modification, including changing the allocation of parental responsibilities and increasing your amount of parenting time.

Grounds for a Post-Divorce Modification

Once a reasonable amount of time has passed, virtually all issues relating to your children, both custodial and financial, may be subject to modification. The court must have a means of dealing with changes in circumstances.

Custody terms are binding, but they are not set in stone; they can be changed. In most states, a court order for a change is called a “modification.” Technically, you can pursue a modification at any time after the last order if you can meet your legal burden of proof.

But remember that the party seeking the change (the “movant”) generally must show that a “substantial change of circumstances” has occurred since the entry of the original order in most cases.

Even if the court agrees that a modification is in order, it will not approve one without a substantial and continuing change in most cases. It would make no sense to permit one or both parties to subject the judicial system, the other party, or the children to a repetition of the first trial without evidence of significant new developments.

So, as a practical matter, motions filed within six months of your divorce are subject to more scrutiny. In fact, in some states, the burden of proof is expressly greater if you file a motion to modify within one year of divorce.

Whether a situation constitutes a “substantial and continuing change in circumstances” may vary from one case to another. Examples of scenarios that could meet the legal standard might include the following:

  • You experienced a major change in financial circumstances, such as a job loss where you are unlikely to be able to find another job that pays as well.
  • Your child or children experienced changes affecting their health or education.
  • Your spousal support obligation should end because of your ex-spouse’s remarriage.
  • Your former spouse or children have had other significant life changes, such as relocation to a new county or state.

How to File for a Decree Modification

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You will likely file a motion to modify in the same court that issued your existing order. The court in which the decree was entered keeps jurisdiction over the child after the divorce under a law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Nearly every state has adopted the UCCJEA, so it is likely to apply even if you have moved to a new state. The only time a court may transfer jurisdiction is when the child moves.

You can check with the courts in your area to see what specific forms you need to file. In a typical modification case, you must file a complaint or petition that:

  • Identifies the divorce order, child support order, or custody order you want to modify;
  • Describes the material and continuing change in circumstances;
  • States the changes that you want to make to the order; and
  • If a child is involved, states that the modification will be in the best interests of the child.

You must have your former spouse served with the court papers. If you and your ex-spouse can reach a settlement agreement, you can ask the court to approve it. Otherwise, you might need to have the court decide after a hearing.

Tips for a Successful Decree Modification

A gold scale balances between a larger cutout of an adult and a smaller cutout of a child beside stacked coins, symbolizing financial equity or support.

The following are some ways you can maximize your chances of a successful modification:

  • Strive to be a model father who takes an active, helpful interest in all aspects of rearing your children.
  • Make all your alimony or child support payments on time.
  • Do not miss any scheduled parenting time with your children.
  • Follow all of the provisions of the parenting plan in your divorce decree.
  • Make a sincere effort to resolve disputes with your ex-spouse amicably. This might involve negotiating through your attorneys or seeking mediation.
  • Communicate with your ex-spouse about important issues in writing, such as by email, so you have a written record.
  • Do not bring comparatively minor or premature complaints to court. That can be a strategic flaw in your claim.
  • Stay calm and keep your focus on the facts of the case.
  • Remember that the most important part of your case is the best interests and needs of the child.

How a Divorce Modification Lawyer Helps Fathers Like You

Two people are shaking hands against a blurred indoor background with warm bokeh light spots.

Legal advice from an experienced family law attorney can be indispensable in your divorce decree modification case.

  • An attorney can help you stay objective and focused on the important issues rather than letting frustration or anger get in the way.
  • Family laws can be complicated, especially for non-lawyers. Your attorney can help you understand your rights and options.
  • Every court has its own local rules and procedures. A local lawyer has knowledge of the area’s rules and the courthouse staff.

Why Men Choose Cordell & Cordell

Cordell & Cordell has advocated for men involved in family law disputes since 1990. Our firm has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and has earned accolades from clients and colleagues around the country.

Hear From Our Clients

“[My attorney] did a great job. I was naïve and stubborn. She was patient, honest, and upfront with me but put me in my place when I needed it. She was overwhelmingly more accommodating than 2 previous attorneys. I was very impressed by how she handled my case.” — Frank V.

“You all were extremely knowledgeable and on top of things. It was an amazing experience for what it was.” — Benjamin T.

When You Need a Change, Cordell & Cordell Can Help

The experienced divorce lawyers at Cordell & Cordell provide intelligent, aggressive divorce representation to fathers. We are a community of talented legal professionals who prioritize growth and success in all our life roles. Together, we provide our clients with the quality of representation we would expect for ourselves.

For help with your decree modification, schedule a consultation online or call us at 866-DADS-LAW.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the Laws for Modifying a Custody Order the Same in Each State?

No, family laws vary from state to state. Your lawyer can help guide you through the specifics of your state’s process. Cordell & Cordell has offices in most states to help men get the support they need regardless of location.

How Often Can You Modify a Decree?

Yes, you can request modification as many times as you want, provided that you can convince the court that the circumstances have changed enough and the changes are continuous to warrant a modification.

How Soon Can I Modify the Divorce Decree?

You must be able to show a substantial and continuing change in circumstances in most modification cases in order to proceed with a modification. An exception applies when you believe your child is actively in danger in their current circumstances.

Frank Murphy

Edited By Frank Murphy

Chief Compliance Officer
Frank Murphy

Frank Murphy is the Chief Compliance Officer and an Executive Partner at Cordell & Cordell. His responsibilities include oversight of the Firm’s compliance with Legal and Ethical obligations as well as contributing to the day-to-day operations of the Firm as an Executive Partner.

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    Men hire Cordell & Cordell because the firm’s entire focus is on aggressively championing the rights of men and fathers through divorce. Our attorneys understand how the deck is often stacked against guys in family law and are committed to leveling the playing field by providing the legal guidance and resources needed to give them a fair chance at success.