A post-decree modification, also called a post-decree petition, is filed with the court after a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, legal separation, annulment, or paternity judgment in order to modify the terms of the court order. Failing to follow the orders of the court may have serious repercussions, so it is important to seek a post-decree modification through the court rather than act outside the terms of the court order.
A post-decree modification can change almost any of the terms of the judge's decree. It could involve a modification of parenting time, child support, or custody. There may be a number of reasons why one or both parties may want to change the terms of the decree, including moving, a new job, relationship change, or even a family emergency. When the parties agree to the modification, it will usually make the process much easier. However, if one party disagrees with the proposed modification, the court may have a hearing to decide whether to modify the decree.
Filing a Post-Decree Petition
If the parties agree to modify the decree, they may file an Agreement to Modify Parenting Time (Visitation), or Parenting Time and Child Support. This includes providing a copy of the prior order, and detailing the proposed changes, provided the modification is in the best interest of the minor child. It also has to be signed by both the petitioner and the respondent.
The modification can include changes to the reasonable parenting time for the primary residential parent, non-primary residential parent, supervised parenting time, costs, and any restrictions on parenting time. After considering the modification, the judge may grant the post-decree modifications, schedule a hearing if the judge needs additional information, or enter a new order, based on the judge's determination of what is in the best interest of the child.
A post-decree modification can also make changes to child support terms. Provided the parents agree on the modification, child support can be changed. The parents should base the amount of child support on the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Otherwise, the post-decree modification can seek a child support deviation, as long as the court finds the change is made in the best interests of the minor child.
If both parents do not agree on the proposed modification, the petition will likely require a hearing before the judge. In Pima and Cochise County, the Court will first require the parents to attend mediation through the Conciliation Court to attempt to reach an agreement. If no agreement is reached in mediation, a parent can then file for a change of parenting time if there have been significant changes in circumstances that make changing the decree necessary in the best interests of the child. Alternatively, a parent can file for a change if there has been domestic violence, spousal abuse, or child abuse, or if the parent believes the child's environment may endanger the child's physical, mental, moral or emotional health.
In order to seek a post-decree modification when both parties do not agree, the parent seeking the change will have to convince the judge, with supporting evidence, that the best interests of the child require a change in the court orders. The judge may not be likely to sign a modification unless there is a substantial and continuing change of circumstances, and that the change has a substantial effect on the child's well-being.
After a hearing, and considering all evidence and testimony, the judge may grant the post-decree modifications, deny the petition for a post-decree modification, or enter a new order based on the judge's determination of what is in the best interest of the child.