A post-decree modification, also called a post-decree petition, is filed with the court after a decree of dissolution of marriage, strong legal separation, strong annulment or strong paternity judgment to modify the terms of the court order. Failing to follow the orders of the court may have serious repercussions, so it is important to seek a post-decree modification through the court rather than act outside the terms of the court order.
A post-decree modification can change almost any of the terms of the judge’s decree. It could involve a modification of parenting time, child support or strong custody. One or both parties may want to change the terms of the decree for many reasons, including moving, a new job, relationship change or even a family emergency. When the parties agree to the modification, it will usually make the process much easier. If one party disagrees with the proposed modification, the court may hold a hearing to decide whether to modify the decree.
Filing A Post-Decree Petition
If the parties agree to modify the decree, they may file an agreement to strong modify parenting time (visitation) or parenting time and child support. This includes providing a copy of the prior order and detailing the proposed changes, provided the modification is in the best interest of the minor child. It also must be signed by both the petitioner and the respondent.
The modification can include changes to the reasonable parenting time for either parent, supervised parenting time, costs and any restrictions on parenting time. The judge may grant the post-decree modifications, schedule a hearing to gather additional information or enter a new order, based on the judge’s determination of what is in the best interest of the child.
A post-decree modification can also make strong changes to child support terms. Provided the parents agree on the modification, child support can be changed. The parents should base the amount of child support on the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Otherwise, a post-decree modification can seek a child support deviation, as long as the court finds the change is made in the best interests of the minor child.
If the parents do not agree on the proposed modification, the petition will likely require a hearing before the judge. In Pima and Cochise counties, the court will first require the parents to attend mediation through the Conciliation Court to attempt to reach an agreement. If no agreement is reached in mediation, a parent can then file for a change in parenting time if there have been significant changes in circumstances that make a modified decree in the best interests of the child. Alternatively, a parent can file for a change if there has been spousal abuse, child abuse or other domestic violence or if the parent believes the child’s environment may endanger his or her physical, mental, moral or emotional health.
To seek a post-decree modification when parties do not agree, the parent seeking the change will have to convince the judge, with supporting evidence, that the best interests of the child require a change in the court orders. The judge may not be likely to sign a modification unless there is a substantial and continuing change of circumstances and the change has a substantial effect on the child’s well-being.
After a hearing and considering all evidence and testimony, the judge may grant the post-decree modifications, deny the petition for a post-decree modification or enter a new order based on a determination of what is in the best interest of the child.
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