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Even though the last order entered in connection with a Maryland divorce is often called the “final” decree, the truth is that certain aspects of the case are subject to modification under certain circumstances. State laws recognize that the parties’ lives can change considerably in the years that follow divorce. So adjustments may be necessary to protect their interests. It is possible for either ex-spouse to petition the court for modification. Whether you entered into an agreement or had the court decide such issues as alimony and care for minor children.
However, there are certain requirements you must meet before the court will modify a divorce decree, since changes can have a significant impact on multiple lives. It is wise to count on a Maryland divorce attorney for assistance, but some information about the relevant laws may be useful.
When You can Modify the Terms of Your Divorce
You need to have a reason to alter an existing divorce decree, so you must be able to prove that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the judge entered the order. This change must be both permanent and material. In other words, it must be having a profound effect on the parties currently. And it was not anticipated when the divorce was finalized through agreement or a hearing. Examples of a substantial change in circumstances include:
- A considerable decrease in income for the person paying alimony, such as through a job loss or economic downturn;
- A change in the physical, mental, or emotional health of a parent or child, making the current custody and visitation arrangement unsuitable; or,
- Remarriage or cohabitation by a party receiving spousal support.
You should note that, under Maryland statute on modifying child support, a parent cannot seek to reduce his or her obligations by intentionally getting fired or demoted. Where a parent attempts to create “voluntary impoverishment,” a court will not approve modification.
Strategies for Modifying a Maryland Divorce Court Decree
In general, there are two routes for modification to an existing court order:
- If the parties can reach a compromise on the proposed modification, it is possible to modify by agreement. You can negotiate, draft, and execute the appropriate documentation, and your attorney can prepare the necessary court orders. If the judge approves, the new order will be effective.
- Disputes over modification must go through a hearing in court, whether you are seeking the change or fighting it. A person initiates the process by filing a petition. Then both parties will have a chance to present evidence at the proceeding. The judge will either approve or deny at the conclusion of the hearing.
Trust a Baltimore County, MD Divorce Lawyer for Help with Modifications
Your final divorce decree might have been suitable for your life at the time it was entered. But you can probably expect that changes may be necessary in the future. When that time comes, you should discuss your situation with a skilled divorce attorney. For information on how we can help, please contact attorney William F. Mulroney to set up a consultation.