How Do I Modify My Illinois Divorce Decree?

A wedding ring over the word divorce.
  • Apr 8 2020

Most individuals do not desire to see the inside of another courtroom after they complete the Illinois divorce proceedings. However, certain changes in circumstances might make it necessary to petition the court for a modification of your Illinois divorce decree. If you experience a major life event or change that could affect the findings in your divorce decree, contact an Illinois divorce modifications attorney to discuss the legal requirements for modifying a divorce decree in Illinois.

Modification of Divorce Decrees in Illinois

In general, the entry of a final divorce decree settles all matters related to the divorce, including matters related to children, property division, and spousal support. In most cases, a court will not entertain a motion to modify the property division terms unless both parties agree to allow the court to resume jurisdiction over the matter. In matters related to parental responsibility (child custody), child support, and spousal support, the court might resume jurisdiction of the matter if a party can demonstrate a “substantial change in circumstances” that justifies changing the terms of the final divorce decree.

What is a Substantial Change of Circumstances?

General dissatisfaction with the outcome of the divorce is not a sufficient cause to modify the terms of the divorce decree. If you realized that you made a poor deal or you do not like how the judge ruled, you might not have cause to petition the court for a modification of your divorce decree. However, if you can demonstrate a substantial change of circumstances, a judge may consider your motion to modify.

A substantial change of circumstances is defined broadly as a material change in the conditions affecting either party or the children subject to the divorce decree that was not known at the time the divorce decree was issued. What constitutes “substantial” is defined by case law, individual judges, and the unique facts of a case. 

For instance, a material or substantial change in circumstances that affect parental responsibility might include:

  • A parent petitioning the court to move out of state with a child;
  • One parent becoming disabled, thereby causing a substantial decrease in income;
  • Allegations of an unfit parent because of child abuse, substance abuse, or abandonment that has occurred since the date of the original divorce decree;
  • A parent becomes unable to care for a child; and,
  • Seeking additional support or assistance for a child who has developed special needs or now requires special education or care.

A judge is looking for evidence showing that the change is not temporary, minimal, or self-inflicted. For example, if you quit your job because you simply did not like your boss, a judge is not likely to grant a modification of child support. Likewise, a parent who wants to modify a time-sharing plan so that it works better with the parent’s social life is also not a sufficient reason to file a motion to modify a divorce decree.

Deciding what constitutes a “substantial” change of circumstances can be difficult. Seeking the advice of an experienced divorce lawyer before filing a motion to modify a divorce decree can save you time and money.

Contact an Illinois Divorce Attorney to Discuss Your Situation

Matters related to children and support are often highly-contested matters during a divorce case. If circumstances have changed since your divorce was finalized, you might qualify for a modification of the divorce decree. Contact the Illinois divorce attorneys at the Goodman Law Firm to discuss your situation in greater detail to determine the best course of action to give you the outcome you desire. 

Posted in: Divorce