Can you go back to court after a divorce is final? Absolutely. As a divorce attorney, I understand that things change. The parenting plan, finances, and life situations may look different years after the divorce is final, hence the need to possibly call your attorney and discuss going back to court, returning to collaborative process, or going to mediation to change your marital settlement agreement, and/or parenting plan.
Having represented so many men and women going through a divorce, I can tell you that in litigation the focus is almost always on the short-term. What I mean by that is, I find my clients just wanting to get through the divorce and having it be over. They aren’t thinking long-term.
Collaborative divorce is different in that we specifically look at the short and long term to help the couple minimize the need to come back. And while I understand why someone might feel this way, it’s important to note that even after the divorce is final, if things change and the agreements are not working, you have every right to try to get them changed legally.
Here are 6 issues which might cause someone to go back to court after a divorce is final:
1. Your ex isn’t adhering to the marital settlement agreement.
For example, your ex might have been required to transfer a retirement account, or car title, refinance a mortgage, put your home on the market, or set up automatic child support withdrawals from his or her paycheck. Maybe you have asked dozens of times and he or she has not responded or always has an excuse why he/she isn’t taking action. That would be a cause to call your attorney and possibly go back to court.
2. The parenting plan isn’t working.
Perhaps your ex is not adhering to the parenting plan. Maybe he/she isn’t bringing the kids back at the time stated in the agreement. Maybe he/she isn’t picking them up on his/her designated days. Or, maybe your ex gets a new job and the parenting plan is no longer fitting his/her work schedule. Or, maybe he/she is just being difficult, and because he/she was not happy with the parenting plan that was set in place by a judge for your divorce, the person decides not to adhere to it. Sometimes, it’s also the kids getting older, and what worked when they were 3 and 5 years old does not work as well when they are 13 and 15 years old and have different developmental needs.
3. Child support changes.
Let’s say you lose your job, and you can no longer pay the child support amount you agreed to in the divorce. Or both spouses now make more money. Or, what if your ex starts making a significantly higher amount of money and you feel your kids deserve more child support? Or one of your children graduates from high school and no longer receives child support. Or, if the parenting schedule changes and you are now having the kids much more, maybe child support needs to change.
4. College wasn’t discussed in your original divorce.
This is a common mistake made: couples don’t decide who is paying for college, or how they are paying because maybe when they got divorce, the kids were toddlers and they couldn’t, or choose not to think that far ahead. Although there are laws in Illinois that guide parents to who has to pay for college, if possible, this is something that should be addressed in the initial divorce. If it isn’t, you could find yourself back in court, mediation, or collaborative process years later.
5. Kids become emancipated.
When a child becomes emancipated, and graduates from high school that child is no longer entitled to receive child support. If the child attends college, `then parents will be responsible for contributing to the college expenses, including living expenses, but that is separate from and different from child support. Child support for any remaining children will be modified and re-calculated, unless you planned for this in advance at the time of your divorce.
6. Changes to maintenance.
Depending what you agreed to, or what was ordered regarding maintenance, this might be an issue you re-visit. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the statute governing marriages and divorces in Illinois, provides that in some instances maintenance can be reviewable after certain period of time, which means that if you are asking for maintenance to continue for longer than originally agreed the court would look at what efforts you (the recipient) made to become financially independent.
If the maintenance was set based on guidelines, which means percentages of both spouses’ incomes, and your ex makes a lot less money now, he or she can ask the court to decrease your maintenance. The statute also provides that in the event of the recipient’s marriage, or the recipient living with a new significant other, maintenance would terminate. Of course, some couples choose to agree to different arrangements in their collaborative divorce or mediation. Key point here is that the issue of maintenance can be very fact and situation specific. Talk it through with your attorney.
Can you go back to court after a divorce is final?
Yes. But, one way to avoid this is using the collaborative divorce process when you initially get divorced. The collaborative process keeps in mind all of these 6 issues, and has plans in place if things change. Additionally, the collaborative divorce process teaches divorcing couples communication and co-parenting skills to take with them for the rest of their lives. Lastly, if in post-divorce you can’t figure something out on your own, you are always welcome to contact your collaborative team to help you work through an issue and avoid the necessity to return to court.
In my opinion, whenever possible, collaborative divorce process and mediation are the better options than going back to court for many reasons. First, these methods cost much less. Secondly, you get to sit down and with the help of your collaborative team, or a mediator come up with a plan that works for both parents. And lastly, you develop skills that will help you communicate when future issues arise, and you might even find you can work through changes without the help of any professional!
Like this article? Check out, “How Much Does a Divorce Cost?”
Anna P. Krolikowska, an attorney in the Northbrook law firm of Anna P. Krolikowska P.C, focuses her practice in the area of family law. Anna realizes that importance and the impact family law matters have not only on her clients, but also on their families. From divorce and child custody to any judgment modifications, Anna considers the unique circumstances of each case to develop a course of action designed specifically to address each client’s unique needs.
As a litigator, trained mediator, and a collaborative professional, Anna is able to offer to her clients diverse, and creative approaches to resolving marital disputes.
Anna realizes that family law matters are very difficult for all individuals involved. She strives to treat each client with respect at all times and to provide each client with attention and time they require. She works diligently to maintain open lines of communication, and provide creative options to resolving her clients’ concerns.
In addition to her practice, Anna is President of the Illinois State Bar Association which oversees the operations and management of ISBA, a state-wide voluntary association of more than 30,000 attorneys who strive to educate and serve the public, and improve the practice of law. She is a 2019 Honoree of the “40 Under Forty” award. The award honors 40 attorneys each year. In June 2021 she became the President of the ISBA, making her the 5th female president since its founding in 1877.
To learn more about Anna and her services, visit her website, or call: (847) 715-9328