Getting married is a rather simple process. Getting divorced, on the other hand, can become complicated rather quickly. Numerous decisions must be made regarding everything from who will keep the dish towels to who will have primary custody of the minor children. Once you finally get everything ironed out and the divorce decree is entered you will at least be able to put all of that behind you right? Unfortunately, the answer is “maybe”. While things such as the division of marital assets and debts are rarely revisited after a divorce is final, things such as custody, vitiation, and support relating to minor children of the marriage are often brought back up post-divorce. In fact, it is fairly common to change a custody/visitation or support order after a divorce is final.
When you divorce decree is entered by the court all of the provisions of the decree and the settlement agreement (if applicable) become orders of the court. One parent, for example, is typically given primary physical custody of the children with the other parent being awarded visitation with the children. Child support will also be ordered as will spousal support in some situations. Unless and until a court modifies or revokes those orders, you and your ex-spouse are bound by the terms of the divorce. A change in circumstance, however, may cause you to seek a change in one or more of the orders entered at the time of the divorce.
If you wish to change custody, visitation, or support in Tennessee you will need to file a petition to modify in the appropriate court. For the court to even consider a modification you must first show there has been a “material change in circumstances” that warrants the court’s review. Things such as an extended illness of a parent, a significant increase or decrease in wages, or the birth of a subsequent child are examples of things a court might consider to be a “material change in circumstances.
The other parent will be notified that the petition has been filed and be given an opportunity to respond. If both parties are in agreement with regard to the intended modification the court will only need to approve them; however, if the parties do not agree, the court will typically order a hearing at which time both sides will present arguments for and against the requested changes.
If you feel that circumstances have changed such that a modification from your original custody/visitation or support order is warranted, contact a Tennessee family law attorney to discuss how best to proceed.