I’ve recently been working on modification cases, bringing together couples who managed to come to some sort of understanding on an initial divorce decree, but are now looking to make changes.
Why does this happen? Unfortunately, far too often, it’s one parent wanting to put his or her wants and wishes ahead of the child’s needs. When I work with couples who are settling divorces, I emphasize thinking about the needs of the children, as judges will always have those in mind when hearing a litigation case or signing a negotiated decree.
In some cases, people will discover after the divorce that there’s a contradiction or mistake in the decree that’s creating confusion, and it needs to be corrected.
But sometimes, a parent will get frustrated with the existing decree and seek modification. Sometimes, a parent will get frustrated with the other parent and seek modification.
Where do the conflicts arise in decrees? Most commonly, of course, it involves parenting time. As circumstances change for parents post-divorce, they can find that they don’t have enough parenting time, or that it doesn’t work with their current work or life schedules. Certainly, it’s hard for a parenting schedule created at one particularly stressful time in a divorcing couple’s life to project five or ten years into the future to know what will work for them then.
Some of the conflicts can relate to the medical care of the child. While decrees typically have parents split costs 50-50, often with the non-custodial parent reimbursing the custodial parent, parents might disagree on the type of care being sought for the child and whether that’s a necessary expense.
Other conflicts can relate to a child’s extracurricular activities, which a parent might perceive as too costly, too much of an infringement on parenting time, or in conflict with another obligation that the parent might perceive as more important.
In some cases, if a child is old enough, he or she can have a meeting with the judge hearing the case and give input as to what he or she would prefer. But in most cases, it’s either up to the parents to resolve the disputes themselves or take it before a judge.
Although you’re probably at the point where you feel you need to go to court if you’re consulting a lawyer about your decree, you’re better off and have more control over the situation if you can negotiate with your ex. If you and your ex are both fully committed on your positions, you can take your situation to the judge, and we’ll do everything we can to convince the judge to rule in your favor. But once it goes to a judge, there’s no guarantee that the decision will go your way. At least, in negotiation, you have the opportunity to work out a decision that’s acceptable to both of you.
We’ll provide legal support whichever direction you wish to go, but we’ll also advise you as to which route is best for your situation, weighing in on the best case we can make to a judge ruling on your case and what expectations are based on our experience.