Congratulations! You’re divorced…it’s congratulations, right? Chances are you endured a long process of stress, periods of contentious behavior (by your ex and perhaps you, but nobody is judging) and you finally executed a divorce agreement and have the official Judgement that declares you are no longer married. If that’s you, I’d say a congratulations is in order.
Generally, the day when you went to the courthouse and received your Final Judgment of Divorce was a good day for you. Perhaps bittersweet, but one of the few good days you probably had in quite some time. I always told clients to put the Judgment on the refrigerator to show it off. In New Jersey, they put a gold seal on the Judgment and it’s like getting a gold star on an assignment in school. Put it on the fridge!
So, now what?
If you share children with your ex, it’s not over…not by a long shot.
If you are giving or receiving financial support, such as alimony or child support…you are still tied to your ex in some way. Hey, at least you’re not living with them anymore, right?
In a perfect world, after the divorce is finalized, both parties go on to live happier lives and live up to the obligations they agreed to in the divorce agreement they worked so hard to negotiate. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, the end of the divorce is actually just the beginning.
Post Judgement Issues
“What, you mean it’s not over after I get the Judgement of Divorce?” you just said to yourself. Well…right. Chances are in the settlement agreement (the written document you negotiated with all the terms of your divorce) is a whole bunch of stuff that either you or your ex, most likely both have to do at some point in the future. It could be something as simple as how support will be paid, or something more detailed such as how you and your ex will sell the former marital home.
Odds are you will have to deal with some post judgment issues. And, if your ex doesn’t do what he/she is supposed to do pursuant to the terms of your agreement, you might find yourself back in court fighting about it. Ugh…I know, who wants to go back to court!
Okay, I bet you are asking yourself what some of the more common issues are that come up after the divorce that you may find yourself dealing with. The most common issues are typically:
- Request for increase of alimony/child support.
- Request for decrease in alimony/child support.
- Custody issues.
- Issues with the distribution of assets.
Let’s go into a little more detail about what these may look like. For these examples, I’ll assume husband was the breadwinner during the marriage and wife stayed at home with the kids. Of course, this stereotypical portrayal is just for illustrative purposes for this article.
Request for increase in support.
During the marriage, husband owned his own business. Let’s say at the time of the divorce, you agreed that husband would pay you a fixed amount of alimony and child support (less than you are entitled to) because he was not making as much money as he did during the good years of the marriage and that was all he could afford.
You make sure the agreement states that this “reduced amount” of alimony is due solely because of his current decreased income and is not the income you both enjoyed during the marriage.
Four years after the divorce, you find out that husband is making much more money and that his business is booming.
He didn’t come out and tell you this, but your sources informed you that he is driving a new motorcycle around town. So, you inquired.
“That’s great!” you say to yourself. The next time you speak to him, you ask him to increase your support due to his increase in income. He refuses. He refuses?????? The nerve. What do you do?
If he doesn’t agree to increase the alimony and child support, you will have to go back to court and make an application for an increase.
Request for decrease in support.
If husband agreed to pay you alimony/child support, it is probably stated in the agreement. Something like, “Husband shall pay Wife alimony in the amount of $400 per month for 12 years.” The amount negotiated probably had a lot to do with how much income he was making at the time of the divorce. Let’s say for this example, husband was making $100,000 per year.
Things change. What if he lost his job three years after the divorce? Now, he claims he can’t afford to pay the agreed alimony to you anymore. You go, @$!#%##@#%#$!^#@$. After you two argue back and forth about what he can afford to pay and what you need to live on, the situation remains unsettled.
In this circumstance, husband may make an application to the court for a reduction in his support obligation. And yes, you now have to deal with it.
If you had young children when you got divorced, you have at least until they turn 18 to co-parent with your ex. In New Jersey, for example, children are not automatically emancipated when they turn 18. If communication doesn’t come easy to you two, that can be a problem.
Hopefully, neither of you are using the children as a tool against the other parent and are encouraging them to have a good relationship with both of you. But, that’s not always the case.
There are a myriad of issues that can come up with the kids. One parent might move and the parenting schedule will need to be adjusted to accommodate the new distance between parents. If one parent wants to move out of state, that is a bigger issue and typically involves a court hearing to determine if the parent requesting to move out of state can do so with the kids.
What if nobody moved, but one parent is not following the agreed-upon parenting time schedule outlined in the divorce agreement? That could be anything from not picking up/dropping off the kids at the agreed time, or always changing the schedule at the last minute, forcing the other parent to change his/her plans.
Most of the time, if you and your ex get along somewhat well, you two should be able to manage and work things out without resorting to the court to do so on your behalf.
If you or your ex don’t agree on how to resolve the issue, you will have no choice but to seek court intervention to iron it out. That will likely involve filing an application for a hearing. This type of thing can happen once, or it can happen every time there is an issue with the kids.
People who frequently appear in court because they can’t co-parent and handle issues with the kids are often referred to as “frequent filers.” Judges typically are not fond of these cases and most times, one or both parents are found to be unreasonable in his/her expectations and views on what the other parent should or should not be doing with the children.
Distribution of Assets.
Sometimes the divorce agreement states that some of the marital assets will be distributed at a later date, when some event happens. For example, some people are not ready to sell the former marital home at the time the divorce is finalized. If the house is not given to one of the parties in the settlement agreement, then both parties still own that asset.
The parties might agree that wife and the kids stay in the house until the kids finish high school in two years. Then, they will sell the house and split the proceeds with each other. When the time comes to sell, what if the parties don’t do what the agreement tells them to do…such as agree on a realtor or get the house ready to show?
Then, the only way to resolve it is to get the court involved. Now, you’re back in court…years after you thought the divorce was over.
I wish that the Judgment of Divorce was truly the end of your involvement with your ex, but children and other issues often prevent that from being the case. As you can see, a lot can happen post divorce that causes you to have to go back to court to resolve it.
You need to know how to handle these situations.
How do you negotiate with your ex? If you have to file an application with the court, what is the best way to present your case? What do you need to prove, tell the Judge?
Each situation is different and requires different types of proves in order to be successful in court.
If you are having post divorce issues, let me know what they are in the comments below. I will do my best to give give you general and useful information on the topic. Chances are, you are not alone and others like you are, or have dealt with the same issue.
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