How to modify a divorce decree?

UPDATED: Oct 19, 2011

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How to modify a divorce decree?

I was not pension eligible but had vested rights 27 years ago. I could not afford the $24K lump sum so the court ordered that when I became pension eligible I was to pay my ex $400 per month for her entire life. I have already paid well in excess of the $24K amount. Is it possible to have this provision modified?

Asked on October 19, 2011 under Family Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

A divorce decree *may* be modified, if there is a sufficient change in circumstances as to warrant it. A classic example would be if the decree was issued when the husband was earning $200k per year, and required him to pay his wife $4k or so per month in support. If the now-ex husband later lost his job in the Great Recession and remained unemployed for over 2 years, eventually running through even his unemployment compensation, he could seek a modification to reduce the support he had to pay to manageable levels.

However, you are not describing a change in circumstances: you had a choice when you divorced, to either pay the $24k or pay $400 per month for life. Even if you have now paid more than you would have paid had you then paid the lump sum, that does not represent any change or alteration in circumstances: it was foreseeable at the time of the decree that, if you and she lived long enough, this would happen. Therefore, it is very unlikely that you would be granted this modification.

Nonetheless, if you wish to explore the possibilities, you should consult with a family or matrionial law attorney. Modifying a decree would involve bringing a legal action.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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