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Legally Reviewed by: Ryan Kelly
Partner, Divorce Lawyer

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Divorce cases often take many months and couples may assume the final divorce decree is set in stone. In other words, they think no changes may be made once the judge signs the final papers. However, circumstances may change as time marches on. Children grow older, financial situations change, and folks may remarry. So, Michigan law provides for necessary divorce decree modifications.

Michigan Law Regarding Divorce Decree Modification

Various Michigan laws provide guidance on divorce decree modification. For example:

  • MCL 552.17 allows modifications to spousal support. This only occurs if there has been a “change in the circumstances of either party.” This must be a substantial change to justify a modification. For example, a remarriage may affect spousal support.
  • MCL 722.27a provides statutory rules regarding changes to child custody, parenting time, and child support orders. This statute considers the best interests of the child as the most important factor.

Your attorney will provide you with the best way to proceed if you feel a modification becomes necessary.

Blank sample of divorce modification forms on a clipboard held by a family law attorney

Reasons for Post-Divorce Decree Modifications

Numerous reasons exist for post-divorce decree modifications. Common ones include the following:

  • Custody arrangements – Many circumstances affect custody arrangements. For example, parents may have divorced when their children were very young. Years later, older sons and daughters have activities that may conflict with parenting schedules. As a result, times may need adjusting. Another challenge occurs when a parent moves far away. The every other weekend schedule no longer works if one parent is out of state. Consequently, a modification is required. Finally, if there is evidence of abuse, neglect, drug abuse, or domestic violence, police reports should be filed and authorities notified. Contact your attorney immediately for advice regarding any of the above situations.
  • Spousal support – Several factors may affect spousal support amounts. The amount may be increased or decreased depending on circumstances. For example, if the payor or payee is now unemployed, that is considered a substantial change in circumstances. On the other hand, if the payee or payor receives a major promotion, the court may reconsider the spousal support amount. Another significant factor affecting spousal support is the remarriage of the person receiving support. Generally, the support ends when the person receiving support from their ex-spouse remarries.
  • Child support – Michigan allows child support to be modified every three years. If the child or parent receives public benefits the Friend of the Court (FOC) will review the child support amount every three years. Other factors affecting child support include: loss of job, having another child to support, and obtaining a higher paying job. Child support must be paid. In fact, anyone who falls $5000 behind could face felony charges. Therefore, contact an attorney or FOC if you are having problems meeting your obligations. Likewise, contact FOC, or an attorney if you are not receiving necessary child support payments.
  • Property division issues – Post-divorce if you are having issues with division of property retain an attorney immediately. For example, one spouse may sell real estate and fail to pay the other spouse their fair share of the property’s value. The divorce decree must be followed. If it isn’t, retain an experienced attorney to protect your financial rights. On the other hand, if one spouse has a significant change in financial circumstances, a modification may be warranted. Once again, an experienced attorney will advise you regarding these matters.

Post-divorce modifications remain necessary for major changes in life. Courts are not interested in dealing with petty issues. This type of pettiness may occur with custody issues. For example, if an ex-spouse takes the children out for ice cream and you don’t like it, the court is not interested. Bringing major issues to court requires mature parents always putting the child’s best interests first. So, if you need a necessary modification to any post-divorce issue contact an experienced family law attorney.

This page was legally reviewed by Ryan Kelly. Ryan has been a practicing family law and divorce lawyer for over a decade. Throughout this time she’s represented clients through various complex issues involving the family court system. This includes divorces, child custody, contested divorces, alimony, and more. She previously served as President for both the WLAM and the Women’s Bar Association and is recognized among the top 10 lawyers under 40 by the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys. She also contributes regularly to the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) as a speaker on issues involving family law and child support.