When you begin divorce or custody litigation, you will likely have many questions about how you can resolve your case, and what recourse you may have if circumstances change after the judgment is entered. I make sure to address the “end goal” with my clients from the outset of representation, to avoid unnecessary litigation expenses and ensure we keep our focus on progress toward that goal.
If you are able to reach a full agreement with your spouse/co-parent, you will enter an “Agreement for Judgment” addressing all aspects of your divorce. You will need to attend a hearing at which you submit the Agreement for the Court to accept as a judgment. At the hearing, the judge will ask you and the other party or your respective attorneys to summarize provisions of the Agreement and ask if you are entering the Agreement voluntarily. The judge will also likely ask if you understand the difference between “merger and survival”, terms that will likely be referenced in your Agreement. The provisions of your divorce that “merge” in to the Court’s judgment will be modifiable by future judgments of the Court, whereas provisions that “survive” the judgment exist as a separate contract that is not modifiable and can be enforced in another court.
Usually, the provisions of your Agreement relating to property division will be final (or “survive” the judgment, enforceable in any court with jurisdiction), and the provisions relating to children (such as custody and child support) will “merge” into the judgment and be modifiable by a new judgment should modification at a later time be in the children’s best interest. Alimony can either be a final, unmodifiable judgment or modifiable based on a substantial change of circumstance.
Regardless of whether a given term of your Agreement is final or modifiable, it is important to avoid reaching settlement relying on future modification of the judgment. Even if modification is available to you, litigation to modify a judgment can be every bit as involved (and more!) as litigation to enter the initial Agreement. Many times clients come to me for representation to modify a judgment based on an Agreement that is unfair and incomplete. The best way to ensure your judgment will work for your family for years to come is to seek competent legal advice from an experienced family law attorney who offers solutions to include in your Agreement for Judgment, to solve potential problems you didn’t even consider.
THE LANCE LAW APPROACH
When you contact me, I make it a priority for us to meaningfully discuss your situation as soon as possible. During the course of representation, I ensure that you are fully advised on all factors to consider including in your agreement, to best serve you and your family not only now, but for years to come. Please feel free to contact me [here]. I look forward to helping you.