When It's Over, It's Over – Or is it? It seems logical and reasonable that when the judge signs your final order of dissolution that the whole process is over. But, there are times when this just ain't so. A final order can be appealed; either party can request that the order is to be corrected; and either party can file a motion for rehearing. Any one of these needs to be filed with the court within thirty days of the judge signing the order. Often, the reason people are curious about when a divorce is final is because they want to get married to someone else, and don't want to delay. In general, thirty days after the judge signs the final order, a person is free to marry someone else.
So, is it over then? Not exactly. Either party can reopen the case at a later date to modify the final order. The modification must be based on a substantial change in circumstances affecting any of the parties. This is usually either child support or child custody/ timesharing, and it can also be alimony. Substantial change needs to be, well substantial. It can't be a minor or petty change in circumstances. The most common reason a person might want to modify child support is that one or both of the parent's incomes have changed drastically. Reasons might be a job termination; lay off; or injury or illness serious enough for that parent to be off work for some time. The change must be expected to last at least a year and must be unanticipated. A child or children simply growing older, is not considered enough reason, by itself, to be a reason to modify child support, timesharing, or custody. But, if a child has additional needs due to his age, those might be enough to modify child support.
A modification for child custody/ timesharing can be triggered by several factors. Around the age of twelve, courts will consider a child's preferences in deciding where the child lives. If a child has a compelling reason to spend more time with one parent or the other, the court's will listen. Or the parents can agree that a new arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
If one of the parents needs to move more than fifty miles away, he or she can request that the other parent to agree in writing to the proposed move. If the other parent disagrees and does not provide written consent, then the parent wanting to relocated can file a petition for relocation and ask the court to grant permission. Courts tend to grant a request for relocation only for a compelling reason, most commonly a bona fide job offer. Either way, the case may still need to be reopened in order to file a long distance relocation parenting plan. Frequency and length of visitations are almost always affected when the parents no longer live nearby.
Yet another reason that a divorce case may need to be reopened is when one of the parties has not complied with the terms of the final judgment. Sometimes there is no other way to force compliance, than to file a motion for civil enforcement/contempt. Reasons to file this type of motion are things like: failure to pay child support; failure to follow the parenting plan; failure to deliver property; failure to refinance an asset such as a boat or a house; or anything else that was ordered in the final judgment but the other party failed to do.
Separating lives which have grown intertwined through marriage is a process. Preparing for divorce before either spouse files with the court or at least at the very beginning stages, may ensure less time going back and reopening your case. The Florida Association of Legal Document Preparers is in the process of building an online course, Divorce & Paternity Preparedness Training, that will help consumers become better at managing the process.
Our course isn't ready yet. We're still gathering resources to help you on your journey. So far we've completed the first two modules (chapters) and will open them for registration by May 1st, 2018. Initially, as an introductory offer, the course registration fee will only be $24.99. As we add information and resources, we'll raise the course fee. But, once enrolled, you won't be charged any additional course fee. You'll be able to come back time and time again to take advantage of the information we add. Ultimately, once the course is complete, we plan to charge $150, We're recruiting document preparers to discount their fees to consumers who complete our preparedness course. We hope to also have some attorneys to refer consumers to. [We are not allowed to receive any compensation for referring to attorneys, and would never do so.]