If you are involved in a civil claim of any kind, the final decision will be entered into the record and will largely be completely unchangeable by either party. The same applies to the vast majority of criminal cases; once a verdict and judgment are reached, it is very difficult for a defendant to contest their sentence. Family law is unique because the parties accountable to a family law decree have the opportunity to revisit their agreement in court and make changes without undergoing a complex appeals process.
What Is a Post-Judgment Motion?
A post-judgment motion or modification is an alteration to the terms of a family law order. It’s possible to pursue a post-judgment motion for a child custody arrangement, child support arrangement, or alimony arrangement as new life events render previous arrangements unsuitable or even detrimental. An experienced family law attorney can help you determine the best approach to your changing circumstances, including filing a post-judgment motion to alter the terms of your family law order.
Family law orders often require adjustment because the terms of these orders take present circumstances into account at their creation. While it is possible to “future proof” some family court orders and decrees, there is always the possibility of unexpected life events to occur for which the signing parties did not account during the drafting of the family law order. Post-judgment motions allow family court orders to remain functional and enforceable despite changing circumstances.
How Does a Post-Judgment Motion Work?
Perhaps you have a child custody schedule that currently works for you and your co-parent. However, your child develops a medical condition that requires significant expense and travel to a specialist. Your current child custody and support agreement does not account for this, so you must alter the agreement to reflect the change.
A post-judgment motion may seem similar to an appeal in a civil or criminal case; the two are functionally similar. However, an appeal requires bringing a court verdict from a lower court before a higher court. It is very rare for a higher court to overturn the decision of a lower court unless there are glaring problems with the verdict or procedural issues that prevented due process. Post-judgment motions are far more flexible than appeals and built into the framework of the family court system due to the fact that changes to family court orders are often necessary, reasonable, and fairly easy to implement.
A post-judgment motion is filed with the court, along with any necessary supporting documentation. If you are filing to have your child support obligation reduced, you may need to submit proof of a negative change in your income or loss of your job. If you are seeking an alteration for a new child custody arrangement, you must provide a breakdown of why the current arrangement is untenable. Your attorney can help you gather the evidence and supporting documentation you need to follow through with an effective post-judgment motion.
What to Expect from the Filing Process
Your attorney will help you submit the most complete post-judgment motion possible and provide the court with as much detail as possible to maximize the chances of having your post-judgment motion approved. In some cases, the other party or parties involved in your family law order may not have grounds to contest the proposed changes. In others, they may cite various reasons why your proposed changes are unreasonable.
Once a post-judgment motion is filed, the parties involved in the family law matter in question will have the opportunity to formally negotiate the proposed change in a hearing. During this hearing, the judge may decide to approve or deny the motion, or the parties involved may need to hash out the details of a proposed change until a new agreement is reached.
Do I Need to File a Post-Judgment Motion?
You might be wondering whether you need to file a post-judgment motion or if you should ever expect to have to file one. If you have a family court order of any kind, including a divorce decree, a child custody agreement, or a spousal support agreement, information is key. It is vital to know what to do when it comes to enforcing or modifying such orders. Your life is sure to change in the years to come. The terms and conditions of your family court order right now may be suitable, but they will not be forever.
Some of the most common reasons people file post-judgment motions include:
- A change in income, such as the loss of a job or a reduction in billable work hours.
- A new medical ailment or disability. The party filing a post-judgment motion may have developed such a medical issue, or they may file a motion due to the newly discovered medical issue of their child or other loved one.
- Relocation, such as moving for a new job opportunity or to care for a sick loved one.
- Schedule conflicts that make a current child visitation schedule ineffective.
Ultimately, any issue that appears that influences an existing family court order in any way could potentially constitute grounds for a post-judgment motion. Filing a post-judgment motion is a relatively simple process. However, it is always best to consult an experienced Oklahoma City, OK family law attorney before starting the post-judgment motion filing process. Your attorney can help you develop the most complete filing possible and help you handle the hearing to follow.
Hire the Right Attorney
It is important to remember that although you may have valid grounds to file a post-judgment motion for your family court order, you may not see the changes exactly as you envision. You may need to compromise on some aspects of your proposed changes depending on the nature of your motion and the other parties’ feelings about the situation.
Your Oklahoma City attorney will be a tremendous asset as you navigate the hearing and negotiation processes and also help to ensure your post-judgment motion is filed correctly and on time with all necessary supporting documentation. Filing a post-judgment motion is a good way to see necessary changes to your family law order. Working with the right attorney makes the entire process much easier.