What is and is not modifiable in a divorce judgment? - Collaborative Family Law Association of St. Louis

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What is and is not modifiable in a divorce judgment?

Kristen Sparks

We family law attorneys frequently are asked, “What parts of my judgment can be changed after my divorce is signed off on by the judge?”

Most of your divorce decree cannot be changed (unless there was a mistake or fraud) after it is signed off on by the judge. You can rely on the division of your property and debts, which is not modifiable. Some items, however, can be modified in the future:

  1. Child Support – Child support ALWAYS remains modifiable until no children are eligible for support. You cannot agree otherwise. Even if you put in writing that it will never be changed, either parent can always come back to court to request a modification if the circumstances of the children or parents change.
  2. Child Custody – Just like child support, child custody (both the schedule (physical custody) and the decision-making authority (legal custody)) ALWAYS remains modifiable until the last child reaches age eighteen.

There is one item that can be modifiable but is not always:  maintenance (also known as spousal support or alimony). Your judgment can include one of two types of maintenance:

  1. Non-Modifiable Term Maintenance – This is maintenance for a set period of a time (for example: for 18 months following the divorce).
  2. Modifiable Maintenance – This is maintenance of indefinite duration, but either spouse can return to court to ask that the amount be changed or that maintenance be terminated.

One of the benefits to the Collaborative Process is that you can come up with more creative agreements than a judge could ever order, and you can discuss the various ways to approach maintenance and what fits your family’s needs moving forward.

The Collaborative Process is also always open to you for a modification, whether you used Collaborative for your divorce or not. This process allows you to work amicably with the support of multiple professionals, rather than ending up back in court again.

This post is a simplified overview of complicated topics. If you would like to discuss these issues in more detail, please reach out to any of the legal professionals in the Collaborative Family Law Association of St. Louis.

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