Today a client from a few years contacted me to “change her divorce decree.”
The way you change a divorce decree in the State of Utah is by filing a Petition to Modify Decree of Divorce in the court where the decree was issued. In the case I worked on today, that was in the Third Judicial District Court, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake Department.
You can change the terms of your divorce decree when there has been a significant and substantial change in circumstances. In this case, our client originally had 2 minor children with her husband when she got divorced. In her decree, they had a split physical custody situation, which means that one of the 2 children resided with her and the other resided with her husband. This is split custody.
Well, time has passed and now the oldest child is over the age of 18 and no longer lives at home with our client. The other child, who is still a minor, has moved in and started living with our client. Our client now should start receiving child support from her ex-husband because she is caring for the child full time. Her ex-husband refuses to pay any child support.
This is a substantial change in circumstances because there is only 1 minor child between the parties left and that minor child now lives with the other parent. In this case, the court should change the divorce decree and order the dad to pay child support to the mom, who is a stay at home mom with the minor child.
So we drafted a petition to modify the decree of divorce and specifically referenced the sections of the decree that we want changed. We outlined how he should be paying child support to her and covering ½ of all of the extracurricular activities, as well as pay half of the medical bills, dental bills and other out of pocket expenses.
Once approved, it will be filed with the court and a summons is then issued and the summons and the petition are served on the father. He will then have 21 days after the date of service to respond.
This video explains the process briefly:
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If the father doesn’t respond in the 21 day period, a default will be entered against him. This means that the mother will win for father’s failure to respond.
If the father does respond, then it becomes a contested case. The next step is to do initial disclosures, which requires a financial declaration to be filed with the court, copies of paycheck stubs, bank statements, etc. and the father also has to do this. This also includes a list of potential witnesses that can be used should the case go to trial. The witness list needs to set forth the full name of the potential witness, their address, their phone number, and brief statement about what they would say if called to testify.
Then, the case usually goes into discovery or into mediation depending on how complex the issues are between the parties. In this case, our client will likely not need to do any discovery. Once disclosures are provided, the next step is to attend mediation. We have various mediators that we have used over the years and there are several that are very competent. Most cases do resolve in mediation or prior.
If the case does not successfully conclude in mediation; then, the case is prepared and goes to trial.
This case is pretty straight-forward. Based on the facts alone, the father should be paying child support.
If you need to change the terms of your divorce decree, give us a call and we’d be happy to help you.
Thanks for reading this blog post.
We look forward to working with you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
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