A divorce decree is a court order that makes a divorce final in Tennessee. However, in some situations, especially those involving children, the terms of a divorce decree or other order may need to be modified or enforced.
At Welty Law Office, we understand that families need the predictability and structure that a court order provides regarding issues like child custody, parenting time, child support, and alimony. At the same time, families also need the flexibility to modify an order that no longer serves their needs or their children’s best interests.
A divorce decree or custody or support order is like a private law that governs the people to which it applies. If one of the parties isn’t following the order, the other needs to have some recourse, or the order is meaningless. In Tennessee, you can go back to the court that issued an order in your case and ask for help to enforce it. You may need to seek enforcement of a child support or alimony order, or to get your co-parent to abide by the terms of your Permanent Parenting Plan.
If your ex-spouse or co-parent is not abiding by the terms of your court order, courts generally prefer that you request their compliance before getting the court involved. If the other party continues to violate the order, or if it isn’t safe for you to try to get them to comply, your only choice may be to file for a contempt action.
If the order has to do with a financial obligation, the court might order wage garnishment or put a lien on property until the obligation is satisfied. If the order has to do with a Permanent Parenting Plan, in cases of severe non-compliance, the court may change the Plan or hold the non-compliant party in contempt of court.
Many provisions in a divorce decree cannot be modified, but orders regarding children are always modifiable because those orders are intended to serve the best interest of the children. As children’s needs or the family’s circumstances change over time, the order may need to be changed as well. Certain other orders, like those for child support or alimony, may be changed as well.
If you want to modify a custody order or Permanent Parenting Plan, you and your child’s other parent or custodian can agree to the modification, but you should submit your agreement to the court to become a new order. The court will not enforce an agreement that has not been approved by the court.
If your child’s other parent or custodian is unwilling to modify the order, you will have to petition the court for a modification. While Tennessee courts recognize the need for flexibility, they also give great weight to the need for stability in a child’s life. Courts will not modify orders on a whim. There generally needs to be a material change in circumstances sufficient to warrant a modification, and the proposed modification must be in the child’s best interest.
A custody order or Permanent Parenting Plan may need to be modified if one parent wants to move with the child. If the move is less than 50 miles and is within Tennessee, no court approval is required. However, if the proposed move is more than 50 miles or out of state, the parent who wants to move needs to give written notice to the other parent at least 60 days before the proposed move. There are strict legal requirements for the notice; if they are not met, the move may not be allowed.
The other parent may file to oppose the move and the parent wanting to relocate would need to file a petition seeking permission from the court to do so. A parent cannot move until the court approves it if opposition is filed. The law regarding relocation changed in recent years and relocation cases are difficult and typically end up in contested litigation. It is important to find an attorney that is familiar with the laws and the Judges that the case will be in front of.
Going through a divorce, support, or custody dispute is challenging. Having to change or enforce an existing order, or oppose a modification, can make it feel like your case will never be over. Welty Law Office understands how difficult the ongoing legal process can be.
To the extent possible, we try to help you resolve ongoing family law issues without having to go back to court. Our team is trained in mediation and alternative dispute resolution, and we work toward a mutually agreeable resolution of your concerns. However, if negotiation or mediation don’t solve the issue, we are also skilled experienced litigators who can advocate for you and your children in court.
We invite you to contact Welty Law Office to schedule a consultation to discuss your Tennessee order modification and enforcement needs.