A lot of people look forward to getting that final divorce decree in their hands and knowing that their ordeal--and marriage--are over. But hold off on celebrating too quickly, because a "final" decree isn't always as final as it seems. There are a few common reasons that you can end up back in court.
1. Are either you or your ex-spouse unhappy with the division of assets?
If so, it's possible that you could find yourself facing (or filing) an appeal. If you and your ex agreed to a certain division, it's unlikely that a higher court will change the order. However, if the judge finally had to make the call, you or your ex-spouse can argue on appeal that the judge erred when applying the law to your case.
2. Are either you or your ex-spouse unhappy with the spousal support ordered?
If you or your ex-spouse believe that the judge made a legal error when awarding or denying a certain amount of spousal support, that can also land you in an appeals court.
Keep in mind that it's usually too late to introduce new evidence in an appeal--they are generally won or lost based on what occurred during the actual trial.
3. Do you have minor children?
If you and your spouse have children together, there's really no such thing as a "final" decree when it comes to issues like custody, visitation, and support. Any changes in the economic or living situation of either parent could give rise to a motion to modify the original judgment.
For example, if your ex-spouse wants to move out of the area with your children, you may want to request that primary physical custody be transferred to you instead. Similarly, if you lose your job and you're paying child support, you may want to ask for a temporary modification of your support order while you look for work.
Motions to modify a divorce decree work differently than appeals, because they are heard in the lower court where the divorce was originally filed and are based on changes in circumstances, not issues with the way the law was applied.
Whatever your situation, it's smart to make sure that you have the help of an experienced divorce attorney to get you through the process. For more information on how we approach our cases, please visit our page.