Divorce is one of life’s most stressful events, and people often assume that once it’s finalized, neither party would want to revisit any part of it. However, it’s not uncommon for unexpected situations to arise that lead one or the other party to ask to have part of the divorce decree changed. Here are some of those situations.

What Can Be Considered When Asking the Court for a Post-Divorce Modification?

The court takes divorce proceedings seriously and won’t likely revisit a finalized divorce without a strong reason. The type of situation most likely to qualify to revisit is a significant change in circumstances in one or both of the exes. This is often a financial change, such as one party losing their job or having a significant change in pay. It can also involve unexpected health issues or changes in the needs of the children from the marriage.

One area that’s less likely to be taken up by the court (although it’s not impossible) is the division of property that was ordered in the divorce decree. The most likely situation in which the court would agree to look at property division again is if there were financial matters not properly disclosed during the divorce, such as if one spouse hid assets from the other.

Other situations that can affect the original divorce decree include one or both exes remarrying or if one parent is convicted of criminal charges.

If one parent wants to move to another city or state, that will cause changes to custody and visitation, there are some restrictions that could lead to that parent applying for approval from the state.

When a parent who lives in one of the greater Chicago area counties (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, or Will) wants to move more than 25 miles away will need the court’s approval, as would a parent living in another country who wants to move 50 or more miles away. A parent also needs approval if they want to move to another state that’s at least 25 miles away from their present location.

What About Changing Child Custody After the Divorce Is Finalized?

In general, Illinois courts won’t consider changing physical child custody (known at court as parenting time) orders within two years of them being finalized unless there is some reason to believe the child is in danger or not thriving. The spouse alleging that the child is in danger (physically, psychologically, or morally) would need to have a considerable amount of evidence to convince the courts to reconsider. While working with an experienced divorce attorney for any of these situations is recommended, it’s especially crucial when accusations of harm to a child are made.

Changes can be requested in less than two years if the child appears to be struggling under the current custody arrangements. For example, if the child’s grades have declined or they show signs of not developing a healthy social life because of the custodial parent, the other parent may request a review and change.

Keep in mind that the courts are less interested in what the parents want and much more interested in what’s in the child’s best interests. They will view custody and visitation through that lens.

What Are Things Divorced People Can Do Without Changing the Divorce Decree?

Couples who don’t have children or whose children are adults can move to new locations at any time. If there are no child support or alimony payments to consider, there’s no need to change divorce agreements if one or the other spouse loses a job or decides to retire. However, changes that involve minor children or financial arrangements between the exes will need to be approved by the courts. See our recent article on modification of maintenance.

What Are the Steps to Request a Divorce Modification?

Before beginning the process of requesting a modification, consider working with a divorce attorney who understands the requirements and timelines. Divorce law is complex, and missteps can lead to the request being denied.

The first thing that happens is that the person requesting the change files a petition for modification at the circuit court in the county that handled the original divorce. The same petition needs to be served to the ex. The ex then has the right to file a response. Once the court has received both the petition and the response, it will schedule a hearing for both parties to attend and make their cases about why the petition should be approved. If either party has evidence backing up their claims, this is the time to present it.

After the hearing, the judge will consider the petition and response as well as any evidence presented to come to a determination. If the judge approves the change, a new divorce order detailing the new arrangements will be issued, and both parties must legally abide by it. If the judge denies the change, both parties must legally abide by the original divorce decree.

What Should I Do if I Want to Modify Part of My Divorce Arrangements?

Call the Law Offices of Robert Buchanan at 312-757-4833 for a no-obligation free consultation. We can help walk you through the specifics of your case and determine whether or not you might be eligible to have the divorce reopened, even if it was finalized. If it can’t be reopened, we can guide you through what other steps are possible and how to potentially take steps to get the changes you need.