When a couple finalizes a divorce, a lot of time and energy goes into reaching a settlement. Many couples hope that after the settlement is reached, all the covered issues will not need to be addressed again. Unfortunately, sometimes, that is not the case, and when a change must be made, the courts allow either party to request a modification. These scenarios can be legally difficult to handle alone, and it could be wise to seek help from an Upper Marlboro modification lawyer.

A well-versed lawyer could also help if your former spouse wants a modification, but you prefer the settlement to remain as is. Regardless, a practiced family attorney will work diligently to help you achieve your goals regarding a divorce decree.

Understanding Decree Modification Basics

Divorce decrees usually encompass multiple orders. If the couple had children who were minors when they got divorced, the decree might cover property distribution, alimony, child support, and a parenting plan describing any co-parenting arrangements. However, property division orders are usually final and unmodifiable. The only exception might be if a spouse discovered the fraud, such as intentionally hiding or undervaluing assets after the decree was finalized. The innocent spouse might have to prove they could not have discovered it while the divorce was ongoing.

According to Maryland Family Law Code § 8-103, either spouse can request to modify any of the other orders. The court will expect the requesting party to present proof of a substantial change in circumstances that justifies a modification. Even when both parties agree to the terms of the modification, they must present it to the court for approval and comply with the current order until the judge issues a new one.

Meeting the Substantial Change Threshold

Parties seeking a modification of the divorce decree must show that circumstances have changed since the current order was issued and that the changes make the current order unfair or unworkable. The change must relate to the issue the party wants the court to modify. For example, a change in a parent’s salary might justify a change in the alimony payment but not the visitation schedule.

A change must be significant to merit a modification. In most cases, courts will not modify child support or alimony payment unless one of the parties’ incomes has changed by 25 percent or more. Courts have discretion to allow or reject a modification request. The judge could also grant a modification request but make changes different than the requesting party requested or expected. To prevent the uncertainty of a court proceeding, an Upper Marlboro attorney could evaluate whether there is another way to accomplish a goal besides seeking modification of the divorce decree.

Modifications Must Be in the Children’s Best Interest

As children grow, their needs, interests, and schedules change. Accommodating those changes could make modifying aspects of the divorce decree necessary. A court will not modify any aspect of a decree impacting children unless the judge is convinced the change is in the children’s best interests. Parents must present evidence demonstrating a substantial change that impacts their current arrangement. For example, if a parent or child develops a chronic or disabling medical condition, it might justify a change in custody. Behavioral problems or educational challenges could also merit changes.

A judge must independently review the evidence and determine that the change the parent seeks best supports the children’s interests. A parent in Upper Marlboro or Largo should seek help from a local attorney to craft persuasive arguments to modify their position for the children.

Consult an Upper Marlboro Attorney About Changing a Divorce Decree

Sometimes, changes in your circumstances require changes to a divorce decree. Although courts will consider modifying child support, alimony, and child custody, they have discretion on whether to grant a request for a change.

Whether you want a modification or oppose a change your former spouse wants, work with an Upper Marlboro modification lawyer to understand your options. An experienced attorney could ensure the judge understands your position clearly. Reach out today for an initial consultation.