Can You Modify a Divorce Decree in South Carolina?

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Divorce court orders and judgments aren’t written in a vacuum. After the ink dries, life changes can arise that make it difficult for a party to comply with what the judge has decided.

In many cases, these developments allow a former spouse to ask the court for a divorce modification. This applies to divorce decrees as well.

It’s important to retain a seasoned family law attorney who knows the law and what it takes to convince the judge to grant a divorce modification. Greenville, SC divorce lawyer Angela Frazier can advocate for you.

Why Seek a Modification to a Divorce Order?

Ex-spouses may want the court to change a prior divorce order for several different reasons.

These are some of the most common:

Child support changes

Either the paying or receiving parent can ask the judge to modify or terminate an existing child support order if a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the divorce decree was entered. Examples may include an unexpected job loss or an increase in the child’s reasonable expenses. You can also ask the court to end the child support obligation once the child turns 18 and graduates from high school.

Seeking divorce modification is essential if you believe you’re going to be unable to comply with the child support requirement. Waiting to take action until, for instance, you lose your job may result in a contempt action being filed by the other parent.

Alimony changes

The court’s power to modify divorce decrees extends to alimony as well. The party moving to modify must show that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the original decree went into effect.

The judge will also consider a request to terminate alimony on one of these grounds:

  • The receiving spouse has remarried
  • The paying or receiving spouse has died
  • The receiving spouse has continually cohabitated with someone else in a romantic relationship for at least 90 consecutive days (cohabitation may also be found if the couple periodically separated in a way to try to get around this rule)

Parental relocation

The parent with primary custody has the right to try to move with the child. The non-custodial parent often opposes the move outright or disagrees with the requested changes that must necessarily accompany it (e.g. the logistics of transportation following the relocation). Either way, judges are usually required to step in and adjudicate the matter.

Moving within the state is generally not objectionable absent a compelling issue. But moving across state lines invites closer scrutiny. The relocating parent must demonstrate that the move is justified (e.g. for quality of life reasons) and will have his or her underlying motive examined.

The parent should also propose a modified visitation plan. Meanwhile, the non-custodial parent usually opposes the move on the basis that it interferes with the established visitation schedule.

What Can Be Modified in a Divorce?

Modification of a divorce decree only extends to certain issues previously decided by the court, such as those that involve children (e.g. custody, visitation, and child support) or alimony. Other issues are nearly impossible to change.

Equitable distribution, which concerns the division of marital assets and debts, is usually permanent. A party wishing to amend the divorce decree concerning this matter would need to prove something unusual like fraud or misrepresentation.

How Do You Request a Divorce Modification?

Judges amend divorce decrees only if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the parties were last before the court. Simply not liking the order the judge handed down will not be enough to ask for a modification.

But if these changes have occurred, you may wish to speak with your ex-spouse first to see if he or she agrees with the modification you want. The judge will still have to order a change in the decree, but the modification process is relatively simpler if the other spouse consents to it.

If the other spouse doesn’t agree with the modification or with the details of the requested change, you will need to file a complaint for modification in the court that issued the divorce decree.

The complaint will then be served on the other ex-spouse, who will have a chance to respond to it. The judge will ultimately allow both former spouses to present their evidence and arguments in court before issuing a decision.

Let Attorney Angela Frazier Learn About Your Divorce Modification Request

If something has changed since your divorce that makes it impossible for you to comply with what the judge ordered, it’s time to explore whether you can modify the divorce decree.

It starts with asking a knowledgeable Greenville, SC divorce modification lawyer. Attorney Angela Frazier is ready to advise you today. Please get in touch with us online or by phone.

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