Believe it or not, couples often change their California divorce settlement agreements post-divorce. If one or both parties have experienced a significant change in circumstances since the final divorce decree, they may need to modify certain provisions of the divorce agreement. At times, a party may take an ex-spouse back to court to modify an agreement. On the other hand, the parties may also agree between themselves to the change.
What Can You Change in a Divorce Settlement Agreement?
Custody, Visitation, and Child Support
If a party has experienced a significant change in circumstances after the court has issued a final divorce decree in California, they may seek to modify certain provisions of the divorce agreement. More specifically, child custody, visitation, and support are three critical issues that can always be modified if the spouse can demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances.
In the event a spouse does not voluntarily agree to changing a divorce settlement agreement, the moving spouse can make a motion to the court. This motion will request that the court change the current custody, visitation, and/or child support order. However, note that the spouse must file this motion with the court that issued the original divorce decree. Next, the motion must be served on the non-moving spouse, who may then file a response and contest the alleged change in circumstances. Finally, the court will review the evidence presented by both parties and make a final ruling. If the court determines that there is sufficient basis for changing the terms of the previous divorce settlement agreement, the judge will make an order doing so. From that point forward, the parties must comply with the new order.
The modification of a spousal support order depends upon the court’s continued jurisdiction, or ability to make further orders on a particular issue. Oftentimes, spousal support orders include the parties’ agreement to end the court’s jurisdiction after a certain period of time. This is usually a permanent order that totally removes the court’s modification power. Ultimately, spousal support is one issue that parties can elect to completely close.
On the other hand, if the court still has the ability to change the spousal support order, the parties can sign a modified agreement to change the current order. Alternatively, a party can file a motion to request that the court change the order. As with child support, the court will need to determine a significant change in circumstances to make a change.
Things You Cannot Change in a Divorce Settlement Agreement
As mentioned earlier, if an earlier settlement agreement removed the court’s jurisdiction over spousal support, the court will no longer be able to make orders about spousal support. Further, if a party is trying to change child custody, visitation, child support, or spousal support, the court will not make a modification without evidence of a change in circumstances.
That said, certain provisions of the divorce decree cannot be changed after a divorce is finalized. In particular, California courts will not reconsider the original property or debt division. However, the parties can agree between themselves to change the terms of the property or debt division by stipulation and order to modify an earlier judgment.
How to Change a Divorce Settlement Agreement
Change by Appeal
After filing the initial motion and receiving the court’s decision, either spouse can appeal a trial court judge’s decision to a higher court, or appellate court, to change an agreement. However, divorce settlements are rarely overturned on appeal. That said, upon filing an appellate brief, the party who received an unfavorable ruling at the trial court level can argue that the original judge incorrectly applied the law in making their decision. Then, the opposing party can argue in support of the lower court’s ruling. However, the parties may not present new evidence on appeal. Finally, once the appellate court makes its order, it will be binding on both parties.
Depending on the scope of the divorce agreement, there may be provisions that limit each party’s appeal rights. If this is the case, neither party may have standing to file for an appeal.
Change by Stipulation and Order to Modify Judgment
Under certain circumstances, both spouses may mutually agree, or stipulate, to change certain provisions of the divorce agreement. However, they must outline this new agreement in writing and address the change. Then, the parties will submit it to the court for review.
Keep in mind, a stipulation and order to change a judgment typically does not necessitate a court hearing. Once the parties submit the document to the court and the judge approves and signs it, it becomes a court order. After that time, both parties will have to abide by the revised terms of the agreement.
Change Your Divorce Settlement Agreement With A People’s Choice
Contact A People’s Choice for more information about changing a divorce settlement agreement. We can offer you a number of low-cost options to change a divorce agreement. Plus, we can help you prepare a stipulation and order if the parties agree. Alternatively, we can help you prepare and file a motion if the parties are in disagreement. Call us for more information at 800-747-2780 or contact us through our website.