Finalizing your divorce can be equal parts sad and exciting. While you may mourn the end of your marriage, you may also be looking forward to starting the next phase of your life. However, do not take the finalization of your divorce to mean that you will never interact with your ex-spouse again. Many ex-spouses are compelled to maintain some level of contact after divorce, especially those who have children together. Even if you and your spouse do not have kids, there is always the possibility of legal issues arising that compel the two of you to return to family court.
If you have recently completed your divorce, bear in mind that some situations will require you to return to family court. For example, you may need to do so due to your ex’s actions, changes in your circumstances, or other issues entirely outside your control.
Family court provides those beholden to family court orders with the ability to petition for reasonable changes to these orders. However, when it comes to most civil and criminal cases, the outcomes of these cases are set in stone and can only be changed through an appeal. The appeal process seeks to overturn the outcome of the original case due to an identifiable failure of the legal system. Conversely, the family court modification process does not aim to overturn a family court order, only to adjust it to account for new events or newly discovered information.
Several situations might prompt you to file a petition for modification with your local family court, such as:
- The loss of your job, which may impair your ability to abide by a child support obligation or spousal support order. You can request a temporary adjustment or stay on your payment obligations until you secure new employment. Remember that any change in income you experience must result from forces beyond your control to justify your petition for reduced support. You cannot simply quit your job and claim you cannot afford child support anymore.
- Medical emergencies. If you recently suffered a severe injury or developed a medical condition that interferes with your ability to adhere to a custody or support order, you must notify the court and petition for appropriate adjustment to your family court order. You may need to provide some medical records that prove the extent of your condition. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to request either a temporary or permanent change to your family court order, and you may revisit the issue in the future if your situation changes.
- Contempt proceedings. If your ex has intentionally failed to abide by the terms of your family court order in any way, you have the right to pursue contempt proceedings against them. Contempt of court indicates that the subject of contempt has knowingly refused to follow a lawful court order. Penalties may include wage garnishment, asset seizure, loss of custody and visitation rights, and even incarceration in some cases.
- Discovery of hidden assets. Financial disclosure is a crucial aspect of divorce proceedings in the US. Divorcing spouses must be truthful in their financial disclosure statements, and any attempt to hide assets will likely be revealed in time. If you learn that your spouse had hidden assets that should have been disclosed in your divorce, you should notify your divorce lawyer immediately to determine the best approach to modifying your divorce order to appropriately reflect their actions.
- Spousal support issues. If you are required to pay spousal support to your ex, your payment obligation only lasts for the time dictated by your family court order or until your spouse begins cohabitating with a new partner or remarries. If your ex has engaged in some terminating action but has not disclosed this to the court, you may need to file proceedings to have your alimony obligation terminated. You can also submit a request for modification to your spousal support terms if you experience a significant change in income or another life event that influences your ability to pay.
Ultimately, if you discover any information that should have been addressed during your initial divorce case, you should bring this information to the attention of your attorney immediately. They can assist you in drafting your petition for modification and prepare you for the legal proceedings ahead of you.
Unfortunately, many people throughout the United States experience domestic violence, and some domestic violence cases involve former spouses. If your ex has harmed you in any way following your divorce, you should notify the police immediately to protect yourself from further harm. The police can help you obtain a temporary restraining order against your ex-spouse that will prohibit them from coming near you or contacting you until your hearing. The judge will determine whether a permanent restraining order is necessary at the hearing.
If you experience any form of domestic violence, it’s vital to both contact the police and work with them to ensure you secure the protective order you need and to notify your attorney. In addition, your legal team can help you prepare for your hearing and help you develop a compelling list of reasonable changes to request to your standing family court order that appropriately reflects your ex’s actions. For example, if they committed domestic violence, this would likely justify a request for you to assume sole custody of your children.
Do I Need an Attorney to Revisit My Divorce Order?
If you need to return to family court for any reason, it is always advisable to have legal representation on your side. Of course, it’s best to work with the same attorney who represented you in your divorce, but even if you cannot secure their representation, it is vital to find legal counsel you can trust for your modification proceedings or any other issues that arise following your divorce.
While it is technically possible to file a petition for modification or secure a protective order without an attorney, doing so can be more complicated than you might expect. Reliable legal counsel is a valuable asset no matter what your situation entails. In addition, your legal team can streamline the proceedings you face when you must return to family court after finalizing your divorce. If you believe that you have grounds to file a petition for modification or need a protective order after experiencing domestic violence, consult an experienced family law attorney.