How Do I Change My Divorce Settlement in Illinois?

DuPage County Family Law Lawyers

After determining the terms of your divorce, the court files your divorce decree, also known as your dissolution of marriage judgment, which identifies your final divorce terms. After this filing, you are no longer married to your former spouse, and you are required to abide by the terms in the judgment. Failure to abide by these requirements may be an act of contempt of court. What if you, realistically, cannot abide by the terms of your divorce settlement? In some cases, terms that made sense at the time of the divorce are no longer fair or relevant years later. In other cases, rulings are made because one party had poor legal representation or an insufficient understanding of his or her rights. In these cases, it makes sense to seek to alter the terms of the divorce settlement through a post-decree modification.

Why Would Somebody Need to Make Changes to Their Divorce Settlement?

Nearly any aspect of your divorce settlement is subject to modification through post-decree modification. For example, spousal maintenance (alimony) and issues related to the couple’s children are amended this way. However it is much less common for a couple’s property division settlement to be altered after it is filed. In Illinois, an individual normally needs to file a motion to vacate his or her judgment and property division agreement within 30 days of the Court’s entry of the parties’ judgment. After that, the hurdle to change the judgment terms becomes much more difficult. Often some terms of the judgment cannot be changed unless an individual demonstrates that the judgment was entered by trickery or fraudulently.

But remember, even through the judgment for dissolution is considered “final” it is still modifiable in many instances. For example if both partners agree the court may modify their settlement terms. Or when addressing issues regarding the care and upbringing of the parties’ children, then those terms are likewise subject to modification. Likewise, a child support obligation is always subject to modification. In addition, spousal maintenance (formerly known as alimony) may be modified if there is a substantial change in the financial condition or income of one of the parties.

On another note, spousal maintenance is terminated when the receiving party remarries or cohabitates with a new partner. Ideally, the party receiving the maintenance should inform the other party; but often that does not occur. In that instance the paying party may have to discover or “uncover” the change in living arrangements for his/her ex-partner. Illinois law identifies that the payor (“obligor”) is relieved of his/her responsibility when the payee (“obligee”) gets remarried or begins an ongoing, conjugal relationship. Sometimes this necessarily involves court action.

In cases where one or both partners’ financial circumstances change dramatically, such as a job loss or starting a new career, a spousal maintenance order may be altered to reflect these change in circumstances. The burden to make the change is upon the individual seeking the modification.

Alterations to parenting time schedules and child support orders are commonly changed and amended. As children grow, their needs change, and with these changes often come changes requiring new parenting time schedules. Similar changes may dictate that a child’s activities and, for example, sports activities require that expense allocations be amended.

What happens if the parent with the majority of parenting time wants to move to a new home within Illinois? What happens if that parents wants to move out of Illinois? There are Illinois laws that address whether a parent needs the other parent’s permission in order to move. Sometimes permission is required, sometimes it is not.

However, if a parent wants to move with the child out of Illinois then a court order must be obtained. In that instance, the parent who wants to move with his or her child must obtain the other parent’s consent, or if the other parent is not consenting, then the matter must be brought before the Court.

What is the Process for Post-Decree Modification in Illinois?

Normally the allocation of parenting time cannot be changed for 2 years after the entry of the judgment unless both parents agree to modify the existing parenting plan. There are exceptions though. These include situations in which the child is in danger of being harmed, and also in cases where the parent with primary allocation time wants to move (“relocate”) beyond the 25- or 50-mile radius otherwise permitted. To alter a parenting time arrangement, a parent may file a petition with the court to alter his or her parenting plan. Evidence must show the substantial change in circumstances that necessitates a change. After reviewing this evidence, the Court may choose to alter or deny the proposed parenting plan modification.

As with altering a parenting plan, altering a spousal or child support order requires evidence of “a substantial change in circumstances.” Petitions for post-decree modifications must normally be made with the court that filed the couple’s original divorce decree.

Can you avoid contested litigation? Sure. Just like the original terms of a divorce settlement, new terms can be reached through mediation, through an agreement reached through each party’s attorney, or through a collaborative effort between the parties themselves along with an attorney that practices in collaborative law.

Work with an Experienced DuPage County Family Law Firm

Sometimes, individuals need to alter their divorce settlements after the settlements are finalized. If you find yourself in this situation, understand that you have the right to seek to do this and that it is in your best interest to do so with the aid of an experienced divorce lawyer. To learn more, schedule your free initial consultation with a member of our team of DuPage County divorce lawyers at Abear Law Offices today.

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