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Modifications of Final Judgments

Fairfax Attorneys Experienced in Family Law Matters

In many family law cases, upon the resolution of the matter, the court will issue what it deems a final judgment. Even if an order is deemed final, though, this does not mean that it is not subject to further modifications. In some instances, the court will grant a party’s request to modify what is purportedly the last order or judgment in a case if it determines that the circumstances necessitate a modification. If you wish to seek a modification, or if your ex-spouse is pursuing a modification, you should consult an attorney to discuss how modifications of final judgments may affect your rights. At Robinson Law, our Fairfax family law lawyers assist people in communities throughout Northern Virginia.

Modifications of Final Judgments in Divorce Cases

In a Virginia divorce case, a court will typically issue a final judgment or decree setting forth the resolution of any disputed issues, including how property should be divided. Although the orders in divorce cases are deemed final, the law allows for modifications of these orders in certain circumstances. Specifically, the law provides that a party who is not satisfied with a final judgment in a divorce case can seek a modification of the terms of the judgment within 21 days of when it is entered. A modification may be sought if there is information that the court failed to consider, if circumstances have changed since the judgment was entered, or if it appears that the court erred in exercising its judgment. If a party does not request a modification within 21 days, they may challenge the judgment via an appeal, which is typically a more complicated process.

Furthermore, Virginia law permits courts to modify final judgments in divorce cases after 21 days have elapsed if the judgment pertains to the distribution of debts and assets, but only to a limited extent. Specifically, the court may modify a final judgment to establish a date for when the jointly owned property should be divided or transferred, or for when a monetary award should be paid. The court can also modify a final judgment to state that a party who willfully refuses to comply with the provisions of the judgment will be held in contempt of court, or to appoint a special commissioner to facilitate the transfer of property when a party fails to comply with the provisions of the order dictating that property must be transferred.

Lastly, a court may modify an order in a case filed on or after July 1, 1982, if it affects a pension, a deferred compensation plan, retirement benefits, or profit sharing, but only to the extent necessary to establish or maintain the order as a qualified domestic relations order, or to revise the terms of the order to reflect its expressed intent. The court is not permitted to substantively modify a final judgment regarding the division of property after the 21-day period to adjust the division of property based on a change in circumstances expires, though.

Modification of a Child Custody or Support or Spousal Support Order

Unlike provisions regarding property division, provisions in final judgments in divorce cases providing for spousal or child support or child custody may be modified if the party seeking a modification demonstrates that a material change in circumstances justifies the requested change. Circumstances that may be considered a material change in a support matter include a change in either party’s income, while a change in the mental or physical health of either parent or the child may be considered material in a custody matter.

Discuss Your Case with a Family Law Lawyer in Fairfax

Family law judgments that are deemed final may nonetheless be modified under certain circumstances. The Fairfax attorneys at Robinson Law are skilled at helping ex-spouses pursue or challenge modifications of final judgments, and we can advocate zealously on your behalf. We can be contacted via our form online or at our offices in Fairfax and Manassas by calling (888) 259-9787 to schedule a meeting regarding your case.