Can Divorce Orders Be Modified as Life Circumstances Change?

As time passes after a divorce is finalized there are almost always changes in circumstances in the lives of both parties as they get on with their separate lives. One party might receive a job offer in another state, or the other party might have a permanent change in work schedule that conflicts with the visitation schedule. When one or both of the parties wants to alter the final divorce decree they must petition the court for a post-decree modification.

There must be a substantial change in circumstances

post divorce modifications

In order to keep families from going to court every time there is some change in their lives, and also to promote a sense of stability, there must be a substantial change in circumstances before the court will consider a modification of the original divorce decree. For best results, wait at least a year if possible before attempting to get a modification for changes to:

  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Spousal support
  • Visitation schedule

Why are child custody, support or spousal support orders commonly modified?

There are many changes that can take place in the lives of both co-parents that might require a modification of orders, including:

  • One parent wants to relocate more than 50 miles away
  • One parent wants to increase or decrease the amount of child support
  • Modification or termination of alimony payments
  • Serious injury or failing health
  • Drug or alcohol abuse in the child’s presence

If your former spouse has graduated and is now gainfully employed, if you lost your job and must decrease the amount you pay in child support or if your spouse wants to increase or decrease visitation with the child due to work constraints, these are all valid reasons to request a modification.

What is the process for post-decree modifications?

Working with a competent Maryland divorce attorney you file a petition for post-decree modification and then the court will schedule a hearing. Collect all of the evidence that you must present to the court to bolster your position. The judge will listen to both sides, consider the evidence that you present and make a modified ruling.

To learn more about what the criteria is for modifying a divorce decree or any other questions you might have about divorce, contact the law office of Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC to schedule a consultation.

Can I Live With My Spouse While I File for Divorce in Maryland?

The short answer is yes, but it’s a bit complicated. While Maryland does recognize no-fault divorce, you are not permitted to live in the same residence as your spouse while you are waiting for your no-fault divorce to become final. The law requires a 12-month separation for a no-fault divorce in Maryland. In extraordinary circumstances, you do, however, have other options if there moving out is just not an option given your particular circumstances.

Filing for absolute or limited divorce on fault grounds

separation agreement

While you can’t live under the same roof if you are filing for a no-fault divorce, Ricketts V. Ricketts set a precedent allowing for a divorcing couple to live in the same residence. You must live in different parts of the house, not share a bed or have marital relations if you file under the fault grounds of adultery, excessive cruelty or “constructive desertion.” By part of its definition, constructive desertion means that one party is refusing to have sexual relations with the other. If this is case, then there is no worry about violating the law that says there can be no marital relations. Note, however, that the burden of proof is on the person claiming the “fault” and it is not unusual for one spouse to contradict the other. Since this is not the kind of situation where there is a witness, proof can be difficult. If you successfully prove a fault ground for divorcee, under these circumstances the divorcing couple may remain in the same house until the divorce is final. During the one year waiting period the two will effectively be living separate lives under the same roof.

How is custody, spousal support and property division handled if both parties are living in the same household?

Here is where it gets complicated. The Maryland Court does not have jurisdiction to rule on which parent gets physical custody, who will have visitation, whether alimony will be awarded while the spouses are in the same house. While theoretically a court could make a decision on marital assets while the spouses are living in the same house it is not likely given the inter-relationships between the various financial issues. One party must move out before this part of the divorce process can continue.

As you can see, given that each situation is different and complicated, you should seek the advice of a Maryland divorce attorney. Divorce is a complicated process, and the decisions you make now will have a lasting impact on your future.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we offer individualized attention to our clients’ specific needs. Contact us today and schedule a consultation to discuss your case.