What Comes After Your Divorce, Part One (the scary stuff)

March 14, 2024

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Consult with a qualified attorney for personalized guidance regarding your specific divorce situation.


Divorce is a complex process, and it’s natural to have questions about what comes next. One common question that divorcing spouses have is whether or not they can change the terms of their divorce after it has become final. Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. Let’s take a closer look at why.


The 30-Day Rule
In Illinois, you have 30 days from the date your divorce becomes final to ask the Court to modify any part of your agreement (with some exceptions). If more than 30 days have passed since your divorce became finalized, you will not be able to change the terms. To change the terms though, you have to file with the Court, and the Judge has to grant your motion to change the terms. The process is expensive as well, and will cost you several thousand dollars.


The Two-Year Rule
In some cases, you may be able to file a motion to modify your divorce agreement after two years even if more than 30 days have passed since it was finalized. This is usually only applicable if there has been a really good reason such as coersion, fraud or duress. If either spouse can prove that he/she was forced into signing an agreement under duress or coercion, then a judge may choose to set aside all or parts of the original agreement and order new terms for the divorce settlement.


However, keep in mind that if a lot of time has passed since your divorce became final, courts are less likely to approve modifications unless there are extenuating circumstances that warrant changing the terms of the agreement. This process can take months or years to resolve and cost tens of thousands of dollars.


Exceptions to the 30-Day and Two Year Rule


  • Child Support, Maintenance and Parenting Times: It is possibly to modify child support and parenting if there is a sufficient reason. The same goes with maintenance, unless there is a provision that makes maintenance unable to be changed. Keep in mind, child support and maintenance payments due before you file cannot be changed in Illinois. In other words, if your income changes and your payments to your ex-spouse could too, you have to file as soon as possible. Otherwise, the Court cannot modify the payments that happened after your income change and before you filed, even if you have told the other person.


  • Agreed changes: In some divorces, there is a clause that allows for changes if both parties agree to them. This usually requires the parties to formalize their agreement in writing and have a judge sign it. I handle these types of changes for clients, but not the changes where a family will fight.


  • Dramatic change in circumstances: If there is a major change in the parenting arrangements or something bad has happened, the Court can change a parenting plan. Some examples I have seen in my career include a parent’s drug addiction, homelessness, a refusal by one parent to allow the other parent to have parenting time, and worse. I no longer take cases like these.


When it comes down to it, whether or not you can modify your divorce terms after they become final depends on several factors such as how much time has elapsed since the judge signed it, unless the law specifically allows for the change. Furthermore, while modifications are possible they are often difficult to obtain without compelling evidence that warrants changing the terms of an existing contract.


I draft my divorces and my parenting plans for my clients to think about the what-ifs that might happen in the future and have kept many families from having to return to Court if circumstances change. I also work on appeals, both appealing and defending cases that have been appealed.


If you want an attorney who will use her 20 years of experience drafting divorces, reach out. I use a flat fee model for my work which gives you price predictability. I can usually fashion a payment plan for the attorney fees.