Can a Divorce Decree Be Modified?

Yes. A divorce decree modification is a change to the agreed upon divorce decree as issued by the court. Such divorce modifications can change alimony, child custody, visitation rules, child support amounts and other aspects of a child’s living environment –internet usage, what persons can stay over when the child is present, and so on.

As a divorce decree modification is a change to an agreed-upon court ruling, it is considered a new, legally binding ruling that replaces the old one. The time frame and scope of a divorce decree modification are as follows.

Time Frame

In general, there is no specific time frame or length of time required to modify a divorce decree. The reason for this is that personal situations often change, including earnings, employment, or the needs of a child.

It is worth noting that many state courts place a limit on modifications as it relates to child custody. For example, in the state of Minnesota, a court will not make any modifications to child custody until two years have passed since the original divorce decree and child custody agreement. Above all, the court is focused on stability and the best interests of a child or children. Also, divorced parents can  make a minor divorce modification, if agreed upon, without the involvement of the court.

What Can Be Modified

A divorce decree is commonly modified because of one of the following reasons:

Unjust: if a divorce is considered unjust to one party or the situation itself has changed, then the divorce decree can be modified. Note that issues concerning property or liabilities should be settled as soon as possible. This is because after a decree has been finalized, there is only a small window of time to request property or liability modifications. After this appeal period has passed (in Minnesota this period is 60 days), then matters concerning property cannot be reviewed by the court.

Child Support and Visitation: a good majority of decree modifications concern child support and parental visitation rights. This can be a modification of monthly support, visitation days and/or times, or other matters such as one parent’s behavior in front of their child.

The Divorce Decree Modification Process

Amending a divorce decree normally involves the following process.

  1. Try to Not Involve the Court: Before involving the court, divorced partners should attempt to come to an agreement themselves. We always advise discussing a change and coming to a mutual agreement, if possible. For example, if the date of child visitation needs to be changed to better accommodate one parent, the parents can agree to and make this change on their own. After an agreement is reached, the court considers it an uncontested amendment which can be filed without a court date or appearance required.
  2. Be Clear On What Changes Are Needed: Before hiring a lawyer to approach the court, the changes that are needed should be clearly defined. These can be financial, such as a change in employment or earnings requiring child support modification,s or a change in childcare needs as the child ages. Changes need not be financial, they can be related to how a child is being raised with issues such as internet usage, visitation schedules, or a parent moving necessitating a change.
  3. Documentation: Amending a divorce decree requires proper documentation. These forms should be filled out by an attorney, as they require information from the original divorce decree, case records, the name of the judge, and other exact legal facts. Also, a clear statement on what is being amended and for what reason is required.
  4. Filing: Once paperwork has been filed, a court date will be set when the other party has been served the paperwork and has had a chance to respond.
  5. Serving the Papers: After filing, the other spouse has to be properly served.
  6. Attending Court: The last step is attending court on the agreed date. The case will be presented before a judge and ruled upon accordingly.

Law Offices of SchindelSegal, PLLC

At the Law Offices of SchindelSegal, PLLC, we understand that modifying a divorce decree is an involved and often emotional process. However, in many cases a modified decree is required to ensure the quality of life of all involved parties and children. If you need representation for divorce modification in Minnesota, please contact us by phone at (952) 358-7400, or by visiting our office at 5901 Cedar Lake Rd, Minneapolis, MN 55416.