When granting a decree of divorce, Oklahoma divorce courts consider very carefully the implications of the financial and custodial terms of the divorce. The court is not interested in your personal feelings for your ex-spouse, but rather interested in the well-being of any children involved, the equitable division of assets, and the present and future needs for support. The court’s decree is not made lightly, and judges undertake a decree of divorce with experience and foresight.
Because of this, courts are not inclined to quickly or easily change the decree. A person seeking to undo or modify a divorce decree must prove a “permanent, material, and substantial change of circumstances” in order to change a divorce decree. Changing your mind isn’t good enough. Circumstances themselves must have changed significantly in order to obtain a post-decree modification.
Getting changes to a divorce decree is difficult and complicated. That is why it is critical to enter your divorce proceedings with strong legal representation and to get a functional divorce decree from the outset.
There are situations in which the modification of a divorce decree is necessary, and your lawyer can help you meet the legal standard of proof to ensure that the essential changes are made.
One of the most requested post-decree modifications is a change in the amount of child support paid on or received on behalf of the parties’ minor children. A child support modification can happen through a substantial increase or decrease in the income of either parent. If a parent paying support loses a job or becomes disabled and unable to work, he or she may no longer be able to fulfill the terms of support. If a parent gets a new job or better job, he or she may be required to pay more support or may be entitled to receive less support. However, the court’s decision to award child support was made with consideration of the best interests of the children and the party’s ability to pay in mind. Any modifications will continue to consider those two factors.
Sometimes, post-decree modifications are sought to change custody status. A change in custody requires proof that the circumstances involved in the initial decree have changed substantially. The party seeking a change must prove that these changes are not working in the best interest of the child or children, and that requested modifications would serve the best interests of involved children.
In other words, if you do not want your children around the bimbo your ex-husband is seeing, you will likely be unable to prove that your personal feelings for the woman are truly reflective of a dangerous or unstable situation for your children. However, if your ex-wife has moved in with a registered sex offender, you likelihood of obtaining custody modification are much greater.
Sometimes, one party will seek to move from joint custody to sole custody. In doing so, the petitioning party must show that the parties involved are no longer willing or able to work together for the best interests of the child. When the court considers to whom sole custody will be granted, it will often pay careful attention to which parent was trying to cooperate in a joint custody situation and which was being difficult and refusing to collaborate.
The petitioner does not have to prove that the other party is an unfit parent, but must demonstrate that the joint custody situation is not working in the best interest of the child, and that an award of sole custody would support and further the well-being of the child.
Common grounds for custody modification include the following:
Sometimes, a parent who was not initially rewarded custody may seek to obtain joint custody of the minor children. In such a case, the parent must do more than simply demonstrate that their circumstances have changed. He or she must prove that the positive change in his or her life will materially affect the welfare of the child.
Even if you were careful and diligent in constructing a plan for your divorce decree and accepting the terms, the best laid plans can fall apart in the face of significant change. Throughout and subsequent to a decree of divorce, Oklahoma divorce courts always keep the best interests of the children in mind.
If circumstances have changed and the initial decree is no longer adequate or sufficient to meet the needs of the parties involved, contact a family law attorney with Law Firm of Oklahoma to find out what options may be available to you and your family.