It’s common knowledge that about 50% of marriages end in divorce. Once two spouses decide upon divorce, the process of divorcing legally takes place. Everything from separating properties to child custody and child support must be decided upon. This is where the divorce decree comes into play. But once divorce papers are signed, can they be changed?
The simple answer to that is yes, they can be. But of course, there is a much more complex answer.
Once Divorce Papers are Signed, Can They be Changed?
Generally, two parties will first attend mediation or their respective family law attorneys will handle the process of negotiations. After an agreement is reached that satisfies both parties, the divorce agreement will be drawn up. This will then be forwarded to a judge for the final divorce decree, who will then sign off on it, making it official.
If a party changes his or her mind before the judge signs, the negotiations will begin anew. Since nothing has been signed, there is no problem in making changes to the divorce agreement. The divorce decree has not yet been finalized, so they can renegotiate at any point.
If, however, the divorce papers have been signed, can they still be changed? Yes, they can, with a motion from the party’s lawyer.
The lawyer must make a compelling argument as to why the change should occur. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the judge will agree. Judges assume that the adults who entered into the contract which is the divorce agreement know what they’re doing. However, it is still easier to change the agreement before it’s been settled into the final divorce decree.
What if The Decree Needs to be Changed After it is Finalized?
Once the divorce decree is finalized, the unhappy party has some options left to change the agreement. He or she can petition the court to have the case reopened. This is difficult to do, though.
If the circumstances of one of the parties have changed, then this may happen. Or if one party can prove that the other party committed fraud, then the case can be reopened as well. For instance, if the two parties agreed on child support only to later find out that one party was hiding financial assets, then the case can be reopened to make financial obligations more fair.
Also, if both parties agree to reopen the case, then the judge may sign off on doing so. Both parties need to sign off on the new agreement. However, if this is unfair to the child in some way, the judge will not sign off on it.
Make Sure You Are Certain About Everything Before You Finalize the Decree
Since getting divorce papers changed once they’re signed is difficult, it’s important for both parties to be sure that they get what they want before signing. Once divorce papers have been signed, they can be changed; however, there are certain stipulations to this. If a judge hasn’t signed off on the final divorce decree yet, then they can simply begin the process again. Negotiations with their attorneys will just start anew.
If, however, the final divorce decree has been handed down by the judge, changing the divorce decree becomes trickier. It’s really up to the judge to decide whether or not changes can be made. There are special circumstances that may result in changes.
Work With an Experienced Attorney
Always be sure to have an attorney when signing the divorce agreement. They will know the technical legal terms necessary to put into it. They will also know exactly what it is you want and how to get it into the agreement, especially if a child is involved.
Remember that changing your mind is okay, but it needs to be done before a judge signs. After that, it’s no longer up to you whether changes can be made. Your attorney can file a motion, but without good reason to make changes, the judge can reject the motion.
Once you’re sure that you have what you want in the divorce agreement, you can sign and your attorney can help with this. Go over your agreement with a fine tooth comb and read everything. Talk to your attorney about your wants and concerns because that’s what they’re there for.
You need to protect yourself and your child, if one is involved. Even if you and your spouse agree on everything, it’s still a good idea to have an attorney look over everything. This is because an attorney can guide you through all of the legalities and point out things you may not have thought of.
Keep in mind that once the papers are signed, you can change your mind up to the point where the judge signs the final divorce decree. After that, it takes extraordinary circumstances to change the judge’s decision.
Whatever Helps Reduce the Stress of Divorce Should be Done
To conclude, divorce is difficult for anyone and no one enters into it lightly. The parties have to be willing to split and that’s never an easy decision. Marriage is supposed to last forever, but let’s be real, in many cases, it doesn’t.
So when entering into a divorce, keep in mind what it is you want out of the other party. Divorce agreements can be changed before the final divorce decree. A judge can rule to reopen your case, but only under extraordinary measures. So be sure you have all your agreements settled before signing and getting that agreement to the judge. The best thing to do is to have your attorney look over everything and be sure before you sign.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.
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