What Are the Steps of a Petition to Modify?

One of the major issues people have with the law is they don’t understand how things work.

This problem isn’t specific to the law. I mean, how many people know the procedure for replicating the Milgram experiments in psychology? Or, what are the steps for removing a gallbladder? Heck, in what sequence does one build a house?

It’s okay if you don’t know the steps to these things because no one but psychologists, doctors, or homebuilders will ever be called on to know them.

On the other hand, people rather often act as their own attorneys — not a stellar idea, by the way.

With that in mind, knowing legal procedure is important for a wide swath of people.

Petitions to Modify Steps

Let’s talk about the steps in a petition to modify a divorce decree.

Petitions to modify are what you file to change your divorce decree. Contrary to what the interwebs and Aunt Debby tell you, you can’t just change your divorce decree by willing it so. You have to go back to court and get an amended divorce decree, and these are the major steps to accomplishing that:

  1. Petition to modify.

First, you file a petition to modify telling the Court what your divorce decree said and how you want it changed.

  1. Mediation.

The vast majority of petitions to modify are resolved in mediation. (For a primer on mediation, click here.) In fact, many times divorce decree contain clauses that require mediation before you can file a petition to modify.

  1. Temporary orders.

Sometimes, when things need to be addressed right now, you will file for temporary orders. (For a primer on temporary orders, click here.) Keep in mind, Courts are not inclined to make a temporary change during a petition to modify, so you have to have a very good reason to file temporary orders during modification proceedings.

  1. Custody evaluation.

If children are involved and you’re asking for a significant change in custody and parent-time (e.g., you’re asking the kids live with you when they’ve lived with your ex for the past three years), you’ll probably need a custody evaluation. (For a primer on custody evaluations, click here.)

  1. Discovery.

Discovery is the process of sharing information in anticipation of trial. Essentially, you get to ask questions, request documents, and depose people to gather evidence you will use at trial.

  1. Trial.

Trial is the culmination everything. It’s where the judge makes a big decision about your life and your family’s future. Only 1%-2% of cases go to trial.

Now, there is way more to the process what I’ve laid out here. If you want to read the letters we send our clients that explain each step of the petition to modify process in detail, click here.

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