Cleveland Family Law Attorneys
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What is a Modification and How Do I Pursue It?

Making Alterations as Life Changes Occur

When it comes to divorce, the utility of the terms contained in your final agreement or court order may not always be as you envisioned. As time passes, you may find that the terms of your divorce no longer reflect what is best for you and your family. If this is the case, you may need to pursue a modification of the terms of your divorce decree. We’re here to help.

Defining Modification of Divorce Decrees

A modification of a divorce decree in Ohio can be defined as any change that is made to the terms of the original decree with respect to parenting or limited financial matters. Either party seeking a modification may initiate the proceedings by filing a motion with the court, and the court must ultimately determine whether the modification is warranted. There are many reasons why someone may want to pursue a modification, such as when a party experiences a change in circumstance.

It is important to note that only a limited number of financial matters may be modified following the conclusion of a divorce proceeding, including but not limited to Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (sometimes referred to as “QDROs”), Division of Property Orders (sometimes referred to as “DOPOs”), child support, and spousal support.

It's very common to see modifications surrounding the issues of child support and/or child custody, especially as a child grows and their needs change over time. If you believe that your ex-spouse is not following the terms of your divorce decree and you desire a new plan to accurately reflect the terms and/or present schedule you both are following, you can also pursue a modification.

Circumstances Warranting Modification

In Ohio, a modification may be granted if there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances. For example, in the instance of a child custody modification request, the requesting party must prove that a change in circumstance has occurred such that the current arrangement is no longer practical or viable and that the proposed modification is in the child's best interest. A few examples of when a court may find that a change in circumstances has occurred include:

  • A substantial change in employment and/or a significant change in income.
  • A change in residence or a desire to relocate.
  • The incarceration of one or both parents.
  • The use of alcohol or abuse of substances.
  • A change in the child's needs, such as a diagnosis of a medical condition
  • One parent consistently violates the current custody agreement

If you believe that your circumstances have changed to the point where a modification is warranted, do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the process and protect your interests.

How to Seek Modification

If you are considering pursuing a modification, it's important to speak with an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process. A request for a modification may first be accomplished either through negotiation and agreement of the parties, or by filing a motion with the court. If either party proceeds with the litigation route, then the court will schedule several hearings during which the parties will investigate, exchange information, and ultimately present their respective cases.

Additionally, it's important to note that merely filing for a modification does not automatically change an existing court order. The current order remains in place until a Judge or Magistrate issues an updated order modifying the terms of the previous one.

If the parties reach an agreement as to the modified terms of the Court Order, they may draft, execute, and submit a proposed modification entry to the court which memorializes the terms of their agreement. If approved by the court, the appropriate judiciary will execute and journalize the Order.

Following these hearings, if the parties are still unable to reach an agreement, the Judge or Magistrate will make a decision as to whether the requested modification should be granted. If the court does grant the modification, they will issue a new court order outlining the new terms for the parties to follow. Once this order is in place, both parties must comply with the Order of court. If one party does not comply, they may face future litigation and legal action such as contempt of court or future modification proceedings.

When Parties Agree to Modify

If the parties agree to modify, they can either prepare their own stipulation and order or retain counsel to draft a formal agreement on their behalf. The agreement should be in writing and memorialize the terms of the parties’ agreement. Then, the parties must each sign the document and submit the same to the court for final review and approval. If the court approves the formal modification agreement, then they will execute and journalize the proposed agreement with the court. If the parties cannot agree on a modification and/or if their negotiations stall, either party may file a motion with the court requesting a hearing on the matter.

Work with An Attorney for Modification

If you want to modify your divorce decree or child custody order, it's wise to work with an attorney throughout the process. The modification process can be complicated, and an attorney can help make sure that everything goes smoothly. An attorney can also help you understand your rights and options when it comes to modification. If you're considering pursuing a modification, the attorneys at Laubacher & Co. can explore this option with you and help you navigate this process.

Learn more about modification of divorce decrees in Ohio or schedule a consultation to go over your situation by calling us at (440) 336-8687 or by visiting us online.