When a civil or criminal case ends, those sentenced under criminal law cannot try to modify a guilty verdict. Likewise, a plaintiff in a civil case cannot attempt to increase their case award. The appellate system is limited and only available in certain situations. Family law is unique in civil law in that it affords parties involved in rendered judgments to return to court to modify those judgments. Post-judgment motions are a tool of family law that allows parties involved in a divorce, child support arrangement, or child custody agreement to return to court to renegotiate aspects of their settlements.
Family law typically focuses on child custody cases, asset division, and other issues pertaining to divorce and marriage dissolution. When a marriage ends in the Sacramento, California area, the court makes its determinations based on the information that is currently available at the time of the case being brought to court. The circumstances of those involved with a family law case can evolve. Post-judgment motions allow involved parties to update their family law settlements to account for these evolved circumstances.
How Do Post-Judgment Motions Work?
A family law attorney in Sacramento, California, can assist a client with pursuing post-judgment motions for a family law case. A post-judgment motion is similar in concept to an appeal, albeit with different rules. Essentially, a family law decree is never solidified in the same way a criminal case or other civil case is at ruling. There is always potential for one of the parties involved in a family law decision to return to court if there has been a material change in the circumstances referenced in the original ruling.
A “material change” can include any change to life circumstances that fall under the purview of the family law decree. The court generally prefers to support an existing judgment, so a party that wishes to complete a post-judgment motion must provide evidence of a material change that fundamentally alters the structure of the existing judgment. Some examples of material changes that might qualify as grounds for a post-judgment motion include:
- A significant change in employment, such as a custodial parent losing a job or a noncustodial parent moving to a higher-earning position. Any change in employment that results in a parent’s decreased ability to pay support or increases a parent’s need for child support typically faces a high level of scrutiny from the court system.
- Moving. If a custodial parent relocates, this will fundamentally alter an existing child support or custody agreement. The court will need to review the need for the move, the new housing location, and determine how the move will influence the parents’ visitation schedule. A move over a long distance could potentially lead to renegotiation of custody arrangements and existing support agreements.
- Major illness. Severe medical issues may necessitate revisiting an existing support agreement. This could be a material change if a parent or a child involved in an existing custody or support judgment develops a major illness.
- A child’s education expenses, such as school tuition or a change in financial aid eligibility. In many cases, parents will stipulate how to handle these issues in the original support and custody judgment, but a child’s educational plans may change as they grow older. For example, if a child displays a high aptitude for a field of study that requires higher education schooling at a specific university or specific type of college, the parents may need to revisit their original judgment to modify it and account for this change.
- A child’s needs change, such as a child demonstrating symptoms of a disability, sustaining a life-changing injury, or manifesting symptoms of a learning difficulty.
- A custodial parent has engaged in criminal activity or has abused the children involved in the custody agreement.
It is difficult, but not impossible, to adjust a child custody agreement following a judgment. A family law attorney in Sacramento, California, can help a client facing such a situation and determine the best path to securing the necessary post-judgment motions.
Breaches of Marital Settlement Agreements
In some divorce cases, a divorcing couple will set terms for their divorce that designate each spouse’s rights and responsibilities. Typically, these stipulations pertain to the couple’s shared property, such as real estate and vehicles. A post-judgment motion can also be a vehicle for enforcing the terms of a Marital Settlement Agreement. For example, if such an Agreement stipulates one party must refinance a shared home but fails to do so as required, the other party remains financially liable for the home’s mortgage but has no legal interest in the property.
How to File a Post-Judgment Motion
Whether you need to revisit a child support agreement, renegotiate the terms of a child custody agreement, or have a tenet of your Marital Settlement Agreement enforced following a divorce and your ex-spouse’s noncompliance, you will need help. A family law attorney in Sacramento, California, can help you gather the evidence required to see the change through the court.
Typically, post-judgment motions must go through the same court system that processed the original judgment. An attorney can assist in the preparation of a petition for modification and advise the best steps to take if an ex-spouse does not agree to the terms of the proposed modification. The right attorney will help a client ensure the change receives appropriate attention from the court. In some cases, the court will set a hearing date to consider the material evidence involved in the petition.
Judy Ford, Attorney at Law, is an experienced divorce lawyer in Sacramento, California, with extensive experience in post-judgment motions following divorce judgments in the state. These issues are often complex. Convincing a court to adjust a family law decree may seem daunting, but the right attorney can make a significant difference in the post-judgment motioning process. Contact Judy Ford today to schedule a consultation about the post-judgment motion you would like to secure.