When a couple obtains a final divorce decree in Oklahoma, the order includes certain provisions that govern issues like child support, alimony, custody, visitation and property distribution. With the exception of property distribution, these provisions may be modified due to a change in circumstances, such as financial hardship. Parties requesting modification of a divorce decree must file their motion with the court that established the original order, detailing the nature of the request and reasons justifying modification.
Modification of Alimony
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is awarded in the divorce decree following a showing by one spouse that financial support is needed during the period of independent living after divorce. Alimony can be indefinite or for a specified period of time and is considered a lien upon the party responsible for payment. If requested, the court may modify the terms of the original alimony order if either party presents evidence of a substantial change in circumstances requiring a different monthly alimony amount. Alimony is terminated and the lien is discharged upon the death of either party. If the recipient remarries or cohabits with another individual in a romantic relationship, alimony can also be terminated. In limited circumstances, the court may grant a continuation of alimony payments after remarriage if the recipient can show he still needs some continued financial support and it would not be unfair to the other spouse.
Modification of Custody and Visitation
When parties with minor children divorce, the court will grant custody and visitation rights in the divorce decree, which is binding on both parents. To modify these orders in Oklahoma, the party must file a Motion to Modify Custody Order in the same court that issued the original order. If the custody order is for sole custody, the party seeking modification must demonstrate how there's been a permanent, material and substantial change in circumstances that affects the child's bests interests, making a change of custody necessary. The court will evaluate a variety of factors, including the presence of abuse. If parties have a joint custody arrangement, the parent seeking modification of custody must show how both parents are unable to cooperate with one another and agree on the best interests of the child; thus, sole custody would be a more appropriate arrangement. Oklahoma divorce courts always look at factors related to the child's best interests when determining if modification of visitation or custody is appropriate.
Modifying Child Support
In Oklahoma, an order of child support may be modified if there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as the onset of a medical disability, change in daycare or medical insurance, court-ordered change of custody or a significant change in either parent's income. An original child support order may also be changed if it was not made in accordance with Oklahoma's Child Support Guidelines, doesn't contain an order for medical support, or the amount of support would change by at least 20 percent. Parties seeking a modification should file a Motion to Modify Child Support in the court that originally granted the divorce and child support order.
Not every motion for modification is mutual and uncontested. If the modification is contested, the party seeking modification has the burden of proving to the court that a new order is necessary. At the modification hearing, the motioning party will typically present tax documents, pay stubs, financial records and any other evidence necessary to support the need for a change.