In some cases, particularly where there are no children (or the children are adults), there are no further legal issues once an agreement is reached and the Divorce Judgment is signed.
However, in many cases, issues crop up after you thought your case was over. There are many examples, including: the support payor loses his/her job or becomes disabled, and needs a temporary or long term reduction in support obligation; the supported spouse needs an increase in support for similar reasons; the supported spouse has no continuing need for support based on economic changes; a parent moves away requiring modification of the parenting schedule; a child wants to significantly change the schedule, resulting in a change in both child support and the schedule; disagreements about parenting choices or activities for the children; the family residence must be sold and the parties cannot agree on terms. These are only a small sampling of reasons people must ‘go back to court’.
But must you truly go to court (the ‘C’ word)!?! NO! The same cooperative process that you used for collaborative divorce, mediation or other non-litigation process can be used for any of these post-judgment conflicts as they arise. Depending on the nature of the issues, the assistance of your collaborative attorney, mediator, financial professional, coaches, child specialists, would be utilized. Where appropriate, the agreement reached can be included in an agreement submitted to the court. Regarding most significant changes, it is essential to have a written agreement which is filed in court documenting the change. Particularly where the change involves finances, the failure to document the agreement with a stipulation and order filed with the court may result in serious financial harm.
By continuing to resolve issues in a cooperative way, you reduce conflict, and save money. Even if your divorce case was a messy litigation, it is often possible to resolve future issues cooperatively without going to court, once emotions calm and time passes. It is well worth the effort to pursue a non-court non-litigation resolution if possible.
You really are ready to start the next phase of your life. With a little time devoted to organization and planning now, you can more easily move forward with confidence
Deborah Ewing, Esq. is an experienced family law mediator, collaborative attorney and litigation counsel in Southern California