For most Indiana residents, the judge’s signature on the final divorce decree is seen as the final step in a complicated and emotionally draining process. In some divorces; however, unexpected changes in the living circumstances of one or both of the parties or their children may require amendments to the terms of the final divorce decree. An unexpected illness or a financial crisis caused by the loss of a job may warrant seeking an appropriate modification from the court.
Indiana law permits final divorce decrees to be modified as to issues pertaining to the children, but only under specific circumstances. In Indiana, these circumstances must include proof of a “substantial change” in the child’s circumstances since the initial decree was issued and proof that the requested change is is in the best interests of the child.
A court hearing will not be necessary if the parents can agree on how to modify the original order. The agreed modification must still be reviewed by a judge, but this process does not require nearly as much time and money as a written motion accompanied by an oral hearing.
Using a formal motion
If the parents cannot agree on a modification to the existing order, one or both parties must make a written motion to the court and ask for a hearing before a judge (usually the judge who signed the initial order). The motion must be in writing and filed with the court according to the Indiana Rules of Civil Procedure.
The moving party will provide a brief explanation as to why a modification is appropriate. The hearing will be scheduled on the court’s calendar and both parties will be notified of the hearing date. The responding party can file a motion in opposition to the motion. After hearing testimony and reviewing evidence, the court will enter an order granting or denying the motion.
Retaining an attorney
Bringing any motion before the court can be complex, and the advice and services of a knowledgeable attorney can be extremely helpful. An experienced family law attorney can review the facts, provide advice on which arguments are most likely to succeed, draft the motion and represent your interests in court.