For the most part, a divorce settlement is final. You are not allowed to make changes to your settlement just because you later become unhappy with what you originally agreed to. That is why it is important to enter divorce negotiations with all of the facts on the table and with plenty of foresight in mind.
What if your financial situation has changed and you feel that you need to re-negotiate the terms of your divorce settlement? The very first step you need to take is to research your state’s laws as thoroughly as you can to see if this is possible. For example, in Georgia, you will be unable to re-negotiate a previously agreed-upon alimony payment if you waived your rights to do so on the divorce settlement. You may, however, be able to negotiate other terms to make up for the change in your financial situation. Researching what you can and can’t do in your state is absolutely crucial in changing your original divorce settlement.
Secondly, contact your original divorce attorney for advice, as well as for help in court if you manage to re-open negotiations. The same lawyer who worked with you on your case will be better able to understand your new financial situation. Third, contact your ex. It is important for your ex to know if your situation has changed, whether he or she makes payments to you or vice versa. You should have a lawyer involved even if the two of you want to re-negotiate the terms on your own, in order to make a legal change in the divorce settlement. Make sure to have proof of the changes to your financial situation in order to build a case for a change in the divorce settlement.
What if we’re talking about child custody, not about property negotiations or support payments? Custody changes are almost as rare as divorce re-negotiations, since most courts don’t like to put the child into tug-of-war situations between the parents more than once. However, changes in custody can be granted if there is sufficient proof that the change would benefit the child. Like in re-negotiation settlements, the best way to try to initiate the change would be to research the state’s laws and reach out to your ex. Again, get a lawyer involved to make any new changes legal. Changing child custody will always be more difficult without legal help if the ex-spouse is unwilling to re-negotiate.
It’s a different story if your ex or their new partner is abusing the children while they are in their custody. If you have evidence or suspicions that this is happening, you must immediately contact child protective services (or the police if need be) as well as your lawyer. Provide as much information as you can give, but remember that it is up to the professionals to investigate your claims in order to help build a case against your ex-spouse. Courts will not grant custody in cases of abuse, neglect, or molestation. Keep in mind that false accusations of child abuse, before or after the divorce, can cause you to lose your custody and visitation rights entirely.