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Can I modify my divorce agreement?

The short answer is that changes can be made. While the divorce may have become final, there are many reasons for requesting a change to the decree. Of course there may have been a clerical error in the judgment or some other technical issue that the court needs to clean up. But there may be a certain decision made by the court that you feel was unfair, or perhaps there needs to be a change in certain obligations set forth in the divorce agreement.

Appeals

An appeal of the trial judge's ruling is done taking the case to the higher court called the appellate or appeals court. While this is possible to do, it's unlikely in the case of divorce that the higher judge would overturn the original court judge's decision. To do this, both sides must file a brief that supports their side of the argument with appropriate laws and statutes. While the two sides file their briefs in writing, the court may allow an oral argument.

It's also important to remember that if the two sides agreed to a settlement - of a money payout, child support, alimony, or division of property and assets - then the courts will not be likely to make changes for the sake of making a change. In Utah it must also be done within 30 days of the final entry of the divorce decree.

Motions to modify the divorce judgment

You can go back to the court judge to change certain aspects of the divorce judgment. This can be applicable to child support, custody, visitation schedules or child/spousal support. The court may be open to changing the original arrangement if new information is brought to light that has direct bearing on the case.

Changing the custodial arrangement

The custodial arrangement can be changed if the custodial parent has developed a gambling addiction or a drinking problem or some legal issue. Any of these could put the kids at risk for neglect and thus prompt the court to reconsider its initial decision.

Modification because of a financial change

Say the spouse who was paying alimony lost his or her job. Say that a parent came into a considerable amount of money or landed a lucrative new job, but they are paying very little child support or they may even be receiving alimony or child support they don't need.

A lifestyle change in the parent

Perhaps one parent was having some difficult times before and during the divorce and wasn't granted regular or unsupervised access to the kids. Since the divorce, this parent has turned it around proven themselves to a reliable and upstanding individual for a reasonable period of time. A former spouse may be skeptical, but the courts may be open to changing the parenting-time arrangement.

If you or a friend are divorced and feel that the arrangement needs to evolve or is just plain unfair, you may able to get certain elements of the agreement changed. The best advice is working with the attorney who represented you in the divorce because they are familiar with the case, but that may not be desirable because of the original results or some other factor. Regardless, contacting an attorney with experience in the divorce laws here in Utah is the best option for making a change in your agreement.

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