What can happen after a final decree of divorce? In other words, what can happen after a Court makes a judgment in a divorce? Can the judgment be modified and changed? Can legal actions be taken if your former spouse is not following the judgment? What about matters concerning child custody?
Post Judgment Actions
Generally, when post judgment actions are filed in a Court, there is some type of dispute between the parties following a final “decree” of divorce. A “decree” states the terms of the divorce. Usually, this disagreement or dispute is of a financial nature, but there may be other causes for post judgment actions.
For example, one former spouse determines that his or her ex-spouse has failed to pay spousal support as stated in the divorce decree. The parties can try to work out their differences on their own, but if this is not successful, the aggrieved party (the party that says the other party has not obeyed the decree) may file a motion asking the court to enforce the decree and to punish the former spouse for not doing as that person agreed in court. This is known as a “contempt” action.
When Courts Can Modify Financial Aspects
The court cannot retain any authority over a financial issue in a final court order unless it has retained specific jurisdiction (authority over the matter which the court originally had). This may sound complicated and it can be. Post judgment actions that involve financial matters will be limited to contempt of court actions to enforce the financial aspect(s) of the divorce decree order unless there is “specific jurisdiction” in the final order that covers a particular issue.
One cannot modify a court order in a final order or a divorce decree without first making a proper motion to the court.
Modifying Child Visitation and Support
When it comes to the children of the divorced, any aspect set forth in the final decree of divorce is subject to modification. Many motions to the court concern disputes over parental rights and adjustments to parental responsibilities.
These include, but are not limited to:
- Change of child custody – the child is in the custody of one parent and the other parent is seeking custody or a new custody arrangement. Maybe one of the parents has decided he or she would like to ask the court for shared custody.
- Modification of child visitation – Generally, the noncustodial parent is seeking a change in the visitation schedule.
- Modification of child support – One party may have a case for having support reduced. Another parent may be seeking to have support increased.
- Modification of who should maintain health insurance on the child
- Modification of the tax exemption set forth in the final decree of divorce
In Ohio, all of the above issues and others are subject to modification upon proper motion to the court.
An example of this type of modification would be: One parent is denying the other parent visitation rights. The offending parent (the one denying visitation) can be held in contempt of court for violating the visitation order in the divorce decree. The offender may claim, “She wasn’t honoring her child support obligation.”
In Ohio, visitation and child support are treated as completely separate issues. However, if a parent is not honoring child support obligations, this can also be a contempt of court issue. In other words, if either parent is being denied visitation to the child, the offending parent (the one not paying child support) cannot simply continue not paying because he or she is not being allowed to visit the child.
Here again, one must make a proper motion to the court.
Making a Post Judgment Motion
It is possible to file your motion per se (on your own). The first thing you would need to do is determine the court of jurisdiction (the court that has authority over the case). Once you do that, you should visit that court or go online and search for the Rules of Court which govern the subject of your motion you are planning to file. Each local court has these rules. These rules should tell you how to prepare the motion and how to get information you may not automatically know, such as the case number of your divorce action.
Because of the many complexities associated with divorce and post judgment actions, you may want to retain the services of an Ohio domestic relations attorney. Divorce, especially where children are involved, may be more difficult than you realize. A person may believe that “everyone gets along,” but may later discover this may not be true when you get into court or return to court to modify a divorce decree or to seek to change the custody agreement.
Sometimes these issues can be settled quickly by the court and sometimes they cannot. These are difficult and stressful issues which cause some people to exhibit behavior unlike their normal conduct.