Post-Decree Modifications After a California Divorce

Post-Decree Modifications After a California Divorce

Post-Decree Modifications After a California Divorce

Life changes, sometimes quickly and often, and what once worked as an agreed-upon divorce term suddenly isn’t relevant to the lives of the family members anymore. Remarriages, a new job, relocations, a loss of a job, or any of dozens of other things that affect families can occur and change everything. In many cases, it is necessary to revisit post-decree terms of divorce and modify them to meet the current needs of the family. When an adjustment to an existing court order is needed, a court-ordered modification is necessary.

What Are Post-Decree Modifications?

When a divorce is finalized and a divorce decree is ordered by the judge presiding over the case, certain terms are set forth in that decree that must be followed by the former couple, or they will be found in contempt of court. However, it is possible to have the terms of a decree changed, even after it’s been finalized by a judge, if the terms no longer suit the needs of the family.

Sometimes, though, this is more difficult than it sounds. It becomes even more complicated when one parent is not in agreement with the changes being suggested by the other parent. In fact, this happens more often than not. However, with the right legal team, post-decree modifications can be successful and meet the needs of all parties involved. It should be noted, though, that the court will rule first in favor of the children’s interest, regardless of the parents’ requests or contests to the projected modifications.

While all court orders are modifiable, there are certain conditions that must be met for a judge to approve these modifications. Common post-decree modifications involve areas such as 

  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Parental time and visitation schedules
  • Spousal support
  • Property division
  • Relocation

Grounds for Modification

The California family court is fair when hearing post-decree modifications, but there must be a valid reason behind a request for modification. If the request is fueled by spite or is vengeful in nature, a judge will not grant the modification request. Acceptable grounds for modification include:

  • Job Status Change – When one parent gets a new job or loses a job, it can often affect court orders. Modifications regarding parenting time schedules, child support, spousal support, custody arrangements, etc., may need to be considered to better meet the interests of the children.
  • Mental or Physical Change in One Parent’s Status – If one parent becomes physically or mentally incapacitated and cannot care for the child, or if there are accusations, a belief, or evidence of potential domestic violence, mental abuse, or neglect, a judge will grant modifications accordingly.
  • Changes for the Child – Sometimes, children’s needs change, and modifications that can help meet those needs include such areas as custody arrangements or visitation. For these cases, a judge will hear requests and allow modifications that are in the interest of the child.


A request for the relocation of a child’s residence is one of the most difficult areas of family law. There are many factors that can affect this type of modification request and the judge’s approval of it. If a parent is requesting a relocation due to a new job or remarriage, it is often accompanied by an inquiry by the judge into the child’s interest. If it is in the child’s interest to relocate with the custodial parent, the judge may grant the modification. However, there must be the assurance that there are funds and abilities for one or both parents to facilitate necessary travel for adequate visitation with the other parent.

If it is not in the child’s interest, because of school activities or a connection with the community or other family members that live near the child, the judge may adjust custody so that the non-custodial parent becomes the custodial parent. That way, the child can live full-time in their original community. Nevertheless, this is a very complicated area, and each situation is a different case. It is highly recommended that parents involved in one of these situations or a similar situation take the advice of legal counsel and representation by a family law attorney with move-away request experience.

How to Resolve Contested Divorce Mediation


Q: How Old Does a Child Have to Be to Choose Which Parent to Live With in California?

A: California family court recognizes children’s preference for which parent to live with at the age of 14. At this age, they have a right under state law to express their preference regarding which parent they prefer to live with. Not only must the child be 14 years old, but they must also be of sound mind when making their choice, and their choice must not conflict with their overall optimal interest.

Q: Can a Child Refuse to Visit Their Other Parent or Refuse to Follow Court Orders?

A: Although a child can choose which parent they prefer to live with, at the age of 14, they cannot choose to not participate in the parental visitation arrangements set forth in the parenting plan until they are 18 years of age or emancipated. These arrangements are court-ordered, and it would require a modification by the court to change them.

Q: What Are the Grounds for Modifying Spousal Support in California?

A: Life changes that justify grounds for post-decree spousal support modifications must be substantial and ongoing. These include:

  • Reduction of income for the paying spouse
  • Remarriage or cohabitation of the supported spouse
  • Gainful employment or inheritance for the supported spouse
  • Retirement of the paying spouse

Q: What Cannot Be Changed by a Post-Decree Modification?

A: There are certain provisions of a divorce decree that are ineligible for modification. California courts will not revisit or modify property division rulings or reassess responsibility for debt. The individual parties may agree to different terms on their own accord, but it will not be a court-ordered modification that can be legally enforced.

Obtaining an Attorney to Represent You in Your Post-Decree Modification Case

If you need to modify your divorce decree terms, hiring an experienced family law attorney to navigate you through the modification request can expedite the process and create less stress for the family. Bickford Blado & Botros are skilled in representing clients in successful modification cases. We are prepared to argue on your family’s behalf if necessary, all while protecting and defending your rights. Call Bickford Blado & Botros to learn more about our family law services.



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