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Can My Illinois Divorce Agreement Be Changed After It is Finalized?

— August 28, 2020

Many circumstances can change from when you and your former spouse sign on the dotted line. Any modification requests must be made with your local jurisdiction and it is advised that you work with the same attorney who helped you create your divorce agreement years ago.

Going into your divorce, you may be anxiously awaiting the end of the legal proceedings and the start of your new life. If you have children, you may be looking forward to spending time with them on your own. If you are single, without kids, you may be excited to delve back into the passions that you left behind during your marriage or to get back out on the dating scene. Coming out of your final legal meeting with your former spouse and attorneys, you probably feel relief that you can finally put everything behind you.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Our Naperville divorce attorneys have seen our fair share of divorced couples come back to us years later. Since it is impossible to predict the future, divorce agreements often need to be revisited as years go by and things change. Illinois law allows certain areas of the divorce agreement to be modified if necessary. For instance, the court will never redistribute assets because one spouse wanted the marital home rather than the family car. Most modifications are made regarding parenting matters. The key phrase that is looked for by the court: a significant change in circumstances.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

As you and your kids get older and your relationship changes, it is important that your parenting plan reflects that. The allocation of parental responsibilities can include a number of things, from your legal right to view your child’s medical records to the amount of time that you spend with your child. Parenting plans that are created during the divorce proceedings, as emotions are running high and bitterness from your ending marriage can be stronger than ever, the decisions that are made may have been more emotionally driven than realistically thought through.

Some primary parents, also known as the custodial parent, may want their parenting plan to provide them with clear authority over their children. Perhaps they do not trust their former partner’s judgement or maybe they simply want to feel a sense of power from this legal designation. In cases like these, the primary parent may request to limit the other parent’s legal ability to make medical decisions, have access to academic records, and more. While this may seem like a good idea at the time, the reality is that it is impossible for the primary parent to be there at all times. If their co-parent’s right to make medical decisions is taken away and the child needs to be rushed to the emergency room, the child’s life can be in danger because of this one decision. After months or years of experience as a “single” parent, parents may rethink these restrictions that are included in their parenting plan.

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Parenting schedules are also subject to modify over the years. As job positions and work schedules change, your parenting plan may no longer reflect your free time. The relationship that you have with your child may also impact what your schedule should look like. For instance, if your child is of age and would prefer to live with their other parent, who is fully capable of becoming their custodial parent, the court may take the child’s desires into consideration when making these adjustments. Any modifications to parenting plans are made with the child’s best interests in mind. If the child has grown apart from their current custodial parent, or they feel unsafe staying with them, the court can decide to adjust the details of your parenting plan.

Parental Relocation

Are you hoping to start over somewhere new? After finalizing your divorce, you may find it difficult to continue living in your marital home or live in proximity to your former spouse. The memories around every corner can keep you from moving forward. Though many divorced individuals decide to move away from their former home, divorced parents have additional considerations that must be taken into account.

According to Illinois law, custodial parents must receive permission to relocate with their children, either from their co-parent or from the court. It is required that these parents submit an official request to their co-parent, asking for permission to move with their child. If the parent grants permission for the move, no court intervention is necessary. If, however, the parent is not comfortable with so much distance between them and their child, the court will need to approve of your relocation request. The court will consider the child’s best interests, and whether or not the relocation would meet these best interests, while making their decision. If they find it in the child’s best interests, your relocation request will be approved. If not, the court can deny your request.

If you are not your child’s custodial parent, you are able to relocate at your own free will, without necessary permission from the court. However, you will still need to modify your parenting schedule to reflect your new move. Before picking up, you and your co-parent should nail down the details of when you will see your kids and how often you will communicate with them to make your physical distance feel less significant. If you move so far away that plane travel is necessary, you can also outline how these costs will be covered and whether or not your child support payments will be used towards the travel costs.

Child Support

Child support orders can be modified every three years or whenever there is a significant change in circumstances. In regards to child support, these “circumstances” typically refer to the child’s needs and the non-custodial parent’s level of income. If the child has additional financial needs that surface, such as high, ongoing medical costs, the custodial parent may request that their co-parent provide additional financial help to supplement these expenses. If, however, the non-custodial parent loses their job or is given a substantial, non-voluntary pay cut, they may request for their child support obligations to be reduced. Parents responsible for paying child support cannot attempt to reduce their financial obligations by quitting their job or taking a voluntary pay cut. If this is the case, the court will deny their request for child support modifications.

Spousal Maintenance

Also known as spousal support or alimony, spousal maintenance is financial assistance from the higher earning spouse to the other. This form of financial support is not meant to be permanent, but rather a form of aid for the recently-divorced spouse to get back on their feet. The amount that is owed from one spouse to another is determined based on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The income and property of each spouse
  • The needs of each spouse
  • The current and future earning capacity of each spouse
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The duration of the marriage

It is not expected for one ex-spouse to fully support their previous partner for the remainder of their lives. In fact, some divorce agreements will specify a particular expiration date for spousal maintenance payments while others may require reevaluation every few years. If you believe that your spousal maintenance payments are unnecessary, you can request the court to review your arrangements before your scheduled review date. There are a number of reasons that the court may decide to adjust or terminate your spousal support payments, including if your ex-spouse remarries or if they make no effort to become self-sustaining.

As you can see, many circumstances can change from when you and your former spouse sign on the dotted line. Any modification requests must be made with your local jurisdiction and it is advised that you work with the same attorney who helped you create your divorce agreement years ago. For those searching for a DuPage County post-divorce modifications lawyer, the legal team at SBK Law Group is here to help. Just because you signed your divorce agreement, doesn’t mean that changes can’t be made. Make sure the terms of your divorce agreement reflects your present, not your past.

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