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Modifying Court Orders

After you are divorced, there may come a point in time when you want to modify one or more of the court orders that are set forth in your divorce judgment.  You may want to modify the orders because circumstances have changed.  Perhaps you lost your job and you can’t afford to pay the amount of support set forth in the divorce judgment.  Perhaps the children are now older and it is appropriate that they spend more custodial time with you.  There can be any number of reasons why you may want to modify one or more of the provisions contained in your divorce judgment.

There are other kinds of court orders you may want to modify besides orders that are part of your divorce judgment.  You may want to modify temporary court orders that were issued while you are waiting to get to trial.  You may want to modify court orders that were made months or years after your divorce judgment was issued.

Some types of court orders are frequently modified.  For example child custody orders are frequently modified.  Child support and spousal support orders are also frequently modified.  Other types of court orders can be modified.  However, some types of court orders cannot be modified.  Generally, orders in your divorce judgment for the division of assets and debts are “written in stone” and can’t be modified (unless modified with the consent of your former spouse).

Although orders in a divorce judgment regarding the division of assets and debts generally cannot be modified by post-judgment motions, it may be possible to set aside those types of orders if there is a legal basis for a set-aside motion.  For example, if you agreed to the property and debt division portions of your divorce judgment because your former spouse committed some type of fraud against you, exerted undue influence over you, or somehow forced you into the settlement, then you may be able to set aside some of the provisions of the divorce judgment.  If your former spouse failed to provide you with his or her properly completed Declaration of Disclosure documents as required by law, then that may be a basis for a set-aside motion.  There are multiple grounds for a motion to set aside all or part of a divorce decree.  However, a discussion about the law and procedures associated with set-aside motions is beyond the scope of this website.  In this section of the website, we are only discussing how to modify certain kinds of court orders because circumstances have changed since the divorce judgment or since the court orders were issued, and those changed circumstances make it appropriate that the court make new orders.

 

If both parties are in agreement

If, after the divorce judgment has been issued or

after a court order has been made, you decide you want to modify one or more of the orders because circumstances have changed, the first step is to contact your former spouse and see if he or she is agreeable to the proposed modification.  If your former spouse is agreeable to the modification, then you need to prepare a written “Stipulation and Order” setting forth the new agreement.  You both sign the stipulation.  Your signatures will need to be notarized.  You then submit the stipulation to the court for a judge to sign.  There are Judicial Council forms you can use for a stipulation to modify certain kinds of court orders, such as child custody orders or child support orders (see further discussion below).  For other types of court orders, there are no Judicial Council forms.  You will need to draft a written document known as a “Stipulation and Order” that will set forth your new agreement.  We have included a basic template for a “Stipulation and Order” in our Court Forms Database.  Use the “Court Forms” button on the navigation bar to go to our Court Forms Database where you will find the template for a basic “Stipulation and Order”.

 

If there is a disagreement on the change

If your former spouse is not agreeable to your proposed stipulation to modify an existing court order, then you may want to suggest that the two of you meet with a mediator and try to resolve the disagreement through mediation.

If your former spouse is not agreeable to your proposed stipulation and won’t agree to mediation, then you can file a motion with the court and ask the court to make new orders modifying the terms of the divorce judgment or other prior court orders.  You can use the Judicial Council form, “Request For Order” (FL-300) for purposes of your motion.  As previously discussed, the FL-300 form can be used to obtain temporary court orders, but it can also be used to modify existing court orders.  A fillable version of the FL-300 can be found in our Court Forms Database.  The process for filing the Request For Order (also known as an RFO), is discussed in more detail later on.  First we are going to discuss certain court orders that are frequently modified.

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