What happens after the divorce decree?

It may be necessary after a divorce decree is finalized to make changes or seek enforcement of certain provisions.

Imagine this: you've gone through the back-and-forth, negotiations, compromises and adjustments necessary to finalize your divorce. After all the hard work you've put in, it appears that you now have a decree that is amenable to both you and your spouse, and that makes clear-cut provisions for the support and custody/visitation of your children. The order is signed by the judge, and you are now officially divorced.

Time marches on after the decree is finalized, and things go according to plan for a while. Should your circumstances change, you may realize, much to your concern, that the terms of the divorce decree are no longer workable. You aren't necessarily without recourse in this situation. It may be possible to modify the terms of the decree.

Relevant Colorado laws

There are several different provisions set forth in Colorado Revised Statutes Annotated that deal with modifying divorce decrees and different aspects of them. Here are the most relevant ones:

  • § 14-10-122 - covers modification of provisions dealing with spousal maintenance (often called "spousal support" or "alimony"), child support and property division
  • §14-10-129 - modification of physical child custody, parenting time and relocation (when one party seeks to move a distance sufficient that it changes family dynamics and could impact the current custody and visitation arrangement)
  • § 14-10-131 - modification of "decision-making responsibility" (formerly known as "legal custody," this is the ability to legally make important decisions concerning such topics as education, religion and medical care on behalf of the child)

When a modification is needed

It should be noted that these laws, and other provisions governing modifications to divorce decrees, legal separation orders and orders dissolving domestic partnerships generally dictate that no changes shall be made in terms of deviation from existing financial arrangements if the net result would be a change of less than 10 percent monthly. For example, Joe currently pays Jan $400 a month in spousal maintenance. His hours have been cut slightly at work, and he now wants to only pay her $375. This might not be allowed unless Jan agrees, since the net result of the change would be less than 10 percent of the original amount.

Usually, post-decree modifications are only required when there has been a significant change in circumstances. This is something to be decided on a case-by-case basis, but examples of significant changes include:

  • One party has suffered a job loss or substantial decrease in pay through no fault of his or her own, and as a result needs a temporary adjustment to maintenance payments
  • A child has gotten involved in expensive extracurricular activities and needs additional support from the non-custodial parent to help cover those costs
  • The spouse receiving maintenance has gotten remarried, and the paying spouse now wants to discontinue payments
  • One party has discovered that the other purposely hid assets during the divorce proceedings, and now wants to modify the property division agreement to reflect those additional assets

As you can see, there are any number of different reasons why a modification may be necessary to an existing divorce decree. Taking the proper steps and making the strongest argument for change is the best way to ensure that your desired modifications are implemented. When you have questions about seeking a change to your Colorado divorce order, contact an experienced family lawyer at the office of Susan Fuller & Associates, Attorneys at Law.