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When Can I Make Modifications to My Divorce Decree or Judgment?

 Posted on October 06, 2021 in Divorce

Elmhurst family law attorney for divorce modificationsLegally ending a marriage is a complex process, and couples will need to address many different issues as they work to complete their divorce. Once the divorce process is complete, spouses will usually be ready to move forward from this difficult time and begin the next stage of their lives. However, some ex-spouses may experience changes in their lives that affect the terms of their divorce decree, or they may uncover issues that they believe were handled incorrectly during their divorce. In certain cases, an ex-spouse may petition for modifications of their divorce decree or judgment, and a person may also need to take action to enforce the terms of their divorce.

While there are many situations where a person may feel that post-divorce modifications are necessary, they will need to meet certain requirements to show that these types of modifications should be made. By understanding how the laws in Illinois apply in these situations, an ex-spouse can make sure they take the correct steps to successfully petition for changes to their divorce decree. At Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, we work with our clients to help them determine whether they qualify for post-divorce modifications, and we provide representation when addressing these matters in the courtroom. If you believe that a modification is needed, we can help you prepare and file a petition, assist in negotiating an agreement with your ex-spouse, and advocate on your behalf during legal proceedings.

Divorce-Related Issues That Cannot Be Modified

Most of the time, decisions regarding the division of marital property are final once a divorce decree or judgment is issued. Even if these decisions seem unfair, a person usually cannot ask for a post-divorce modification to make changes to how marital assets were allocated between them and their spouse. 

However, if issues related to marital property are discovered after the end of a divorce, an ex-spouse may ask that the case be reopened to address these issues. For example, if a person discovers that their ex-spouse failed to disclose certain assets during the divorce process, or if they find that their former partner had hidden marital assets from them, they may ask the court to address these issues and take action to ensure that all marital property is divided fairly and equitably. 

An ex-spouse may also be able to pursue an appeal if property-related decisions were made in error. This may occur if certain assets were not valued correctly during the divorce process. For instance, decisions about ownership of business assets may have been based on an incorrect business valuation. If a spouse reported that their business was worth a certain amount during their divorce, and they then sold the business for a much higher amount after the divorce was finalized, the other party may pursue an appeal and ask to receive their fair share of the profits earned from this sale.

Modifications to Child Custody

Some of the most common reasons why ex-spouses pursue post-divorce modifications involve a desire to make adjustments to how they share custody of their children. A parent may wish to make changes to the allocation of parental responsibilities because they want to be able to make decisions for their children without the need to consult with the other parent. A parent may request changes to parenting time schedules because they wish to spend more time with their children or because they believe that these changes are necessary to ensure that their children’s ongoing needs will be provided for.

In most cases, modifications to the allocation of parental responsibilities cannot be made during the first two years after a couple’s divorce was finalized. However, exceptions may be made if there is reason to believe that modifications are necessary to protect children from physical or emotional harm. Modifications to parenting time can be made at any time following a divorce if a judge believes that these modifications are in the children’s best interests.

To receive a modification to parental responsibilities or parenting time, an ex-spouse will need to demonstrate that there has been a significant change in circumstances. These changes may have affected one or both parents or the couple’s children. Some examples of changes in circumstances that may necessitate a child custody modification include:

  • One or both parents have gotten remarried or are cohabitating with a new romantic partner. 

  • A parent’s work schedule has changed, affecting the days and times when they will be available to care for children during their parenting time.

  • Children’s schedules for school and extracurricular activities have changed, affecting the times when parents will need to pick them up, drop them off, or provide transportation to events.

  • A parent has experienced health issues that have affected their ability to provide care for the children during their parenting time.

  • Children have experienced health issues or disabilities that require extraordinary forms of care or transportation to medical treatment or therapy. 

Parental relocation is another common reason for requests to modify child custody orders. Specific rules and procedures must be followed if a custodial parent plans to move a certain distance away from their current home. For those who live in DuPage County, a move to a new home that is 25 miles or more away from their current home will be considered a parental relocation. A parent who wishes to move with their children will need to notify the other parent of their plans, including the date of the move and the address of their new residence. They will also need to notify the family court where they completed their divorce and receive approval from a judge. 

In cases where a parent requests changes to child custody, a judge will usually look to find solutions that will provide for children’s best interests while preserving the relationships between parents and children. A parent will need to show that the changes in the lives of themselves, their children, or the other parent require modifications to be made. They will also need to demonstrate that their requested modifications are in their children’s best interests.

Modifications to Child Support

If one parent has been ordered to pay support to the other parent to address their children’s ongoing needs, either parent may request modifications to the amount that is paid based on changes in their financial circumstances. To demonstrate that these changes are necessary, a parent will need to show that they have experienced changes in the amount of income they earn or that they or their children’s needs have changed.

If the parent who pays child support loses their job or experiences a decrease in income, they may ask for the amount of payments to be reduced. However, changes to employment must be made in good faith, and a person cannot quit their job or accept a reduction in pay in order to reduce their child support obligations. If a parent is laid off, or if they experience injuries or health issues that affect their ability to work and earn an income, they may be able to have child support reduced temporarily. Permanent modifications may be permitted if a person experiences issues that will have long-term effects on their ability to earn an income, such as a permanent disability or a serious illness that requires extensive medical treatment.

A parent who receives child support may ask that support payments be increased based on changes to children’s needs. For example, a child may suffer from health issues that will require them to receive surgery or ongoing physical or occupational therapy, and a parent may ask that the other parent contribute toward the costs of this treatment. Other costs needed to address children’s changing needs may also be divided between parents, including expenses related to orthodontic care, fees or equipment for extracurricular activities, or tutors to ensure that children are receiving the proper education. If one parent is not contributing to these expenses, the other parent may ask that the court add these or other costs to the parents’ child support order.

Modifications to Spousal Support

When spousal maintenance is ordered as part of a divorce decree or judgment, these payments are meant to ensure that both parties can maintain the standard of living they enjoyed while they were married. Changes to either party’s income or financial resources may lead an ex-spouse to request a modification to the amount of spousal support that is paid, or a person may ask that these obligations be terminated.

As with child support, requests for modifications to spousal support must usually be based on changes to the financial circumstances of one or both parties. If a person who pays maintenance loses their job, is demoted, or experiences changes in their ongoing needs, they may ask that the amount they pay to the other spouse be reduced. They may also request the modification or termination of spousal support because the other party has become self-supporting. Since spousal maintenance is often ordered as a way to help a person with limited income-earning capacity pursue education, their graduation from college and entrance into the job market may be a sufficient reason for the termination of support.

A person who pays spousal support may also ask for the termination of this obligation because their ex-spouse has begun a new relationship. Maintenance is automatically terminated if the recipient gets remarried. However, it may also be terminated if a person begins to cohabitate with a new partner in a “conjugal” relationship. If a person finds out that their ex-spouse has moved in with a boyfriend or girlfriend, they may request that maintenance be terminated, and the other spouse may be required to repay them for any payments that were made after they began cohabitating with their new partner.

Enforcement of Divorce, Child Custody, and Support Orders

Even if modifications to a divorce decree or judgment will not be needed, ex-spouses may need to return to court to address other issues related to their divorce. If a person has not followed the court’s orders, the other party may seek enforcement of their divorce decree. If the court determines that a violation has occurred, it may take steps to ensure that a person complies with its orders. In some cases, a person may face penalties, such as being held in contempt of court, which could result in fines or a sentence in prison.

Post-divorce enforcement may be necessary in multiple situations, including:

  • An ex-spouse fails to pay child support or spousal support on time or in full.

  • A parent has not contributed to child-related expenses that they have been ordered to share with the other parent.

  • A parent does not follow their requirements regarding parenting time, such as by failing to pick up or drop off children at the required times and places or refusing to allow the children to spend time with the other parent.

  • A parent makes unilateral decisions about important child-related issues where parents share decision-making responsibilities without consulting with the other parent.

  • An ex-spouse fails to turn over certain marital assets that were allocated to the other party in the divorce decree.

Contact Our Elmhurst Post-Divorce Modification Lawyers

If you believe that changes should be made to your divorce decree or judgment, Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC can help you understand your rights and options. We will provide you with representation in these matters to ensure that your and your children’s best interests will be protected. Contact our DuPage County divorce modification attorneys at 312-605-4041 to arrange a confidential consultation.




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