Your divorce decree provides a guide for you and your former spouse as you continue with life after divorce. It sets out the amount of child support or alimony owed each month, specific child custody arrangements and property divisions like who gets to keep the house. As the months and years go by, however, it may become necessary to modify some of the original tenets of the divorce decree as each spouse's life changes and evolves. The court will generally award modifications for child support, spousal support, child custody and parenting plans with adequate proof of the need for a change.
The most difficult aspect of a divorce decree to modify is the division of marital property. Marital property includes all personal and real property, assets and debts obtained during the marriage. In general, courts will modify a property distribution award only in the event of fraud, mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect. The divorce court may also change a property distribution award if a party has discovered new evidence that was not known at the time of the original hearing. In Kansas, the parties have only one year from the entry of the divorce judgment to make a motion for modification citing one of these reasons. Otherwise, property distribution orders are final.
In Kansas, divorcing spouses are required to enter into a parenting plan detailing child custody, expenses and dispute resolution. The plan is reviewed by the judge and, once approved, both parents must follow each requirement; the plan cannot be modified without an investigation by the court into the reason behind the requested change. Before the court will authorize a modification, a substantial and material change affecting the best interests of the child must be shown. Changes can include instability of the living arrangement, substance abuse issues, financial problems, behavioral or medical changes and one parent's interference of the other parent's ability to maintain a beneficial relationship with the child. Parties must submit a motion detailing specific reasons for the requested modification, which can be heard on an emergency basis if necessary. If parents cannot agree to changes on their own, a full hearing will be held, at which time the judge will hear evidence from both parents.
Modification of a child support order requires a showing of significant financial changes for either party. If the income of either parent increases or decreases by 10 percent or greater, the court may issue a modification. Other changes include the child entering into a higher age group, emancipation of the child or failure of either parent to abide by the parenting plan. As with all modifications in Kansas, parties seeking to modify child support must submit a motion to the court and list specific facts as to why the court should change the monthly payment amount; parents who cannot agree to a modified amount must attend a hearing on the issue and present evidence as to why the support amount should, or should not, be changed.
Spousal maintenance, or alimony, is modifiable based on the terms found in the individual divorce decree. There are no set statutory conditions in Kansas requiring a modification of support, so parties are free to come up with modification terms while negotiating the marital settlement agreement. For example, many couples agree that modification will cease upon remarriage or cohabitation of the recipient spouse with an adult of the opposite sex. Under Kansas law, spousal support cannot extend longer than 121 months absent a different agreement by the parties.