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The Divorce Encyclopedia
Post Judgment Litigation


Term Definition Post Judgment Litigation - motion based litigation that follows a final judgment by a court.
Application in Divorce Postjudgment litigation is also called postdecree proceedings. It is any litigation that happens after the couple has been divorced that is related to the divorce -- spousal and child support, custody and visitation.

Postjudgment litigation requires what is called a good cause -- a solid reason for the action. In divorce cases, for example, good cause for the modification or revocation of alimony means a "a material and substantial change in circumstances," such as bankruptcy.

Postjudgment litigation begins with a complaint for modification. A complaint or petition for modification is filed with the court to initiate the process of modifying an existing order. Modification leaves intact the general purpose of the order but amends its details. For example, one cannot appeal to eliminate child support; however, one can appeal for a change in the amount due to changed circumstances.

After a divorce, courts entertain motions to modify spousal and child custody and support because of a change in circumstance in the lives of the either the custodial or the noncustodial parent, in the case of custody, or in the lives of the payor or the payee, in the case of alimony. Changed circumstances very often involve the reduced or increased income of one of the parties.

The change in circumstances must be substantial and cannot be an issue that had previously been addressed by the court when it handed down its original judgment. Child support, custody, and visitation are the most common orders that are modifiable by the court.

Custody decisions are frequently modified in postjudgment litigation. All custody is subject to modification based on a showing that the change is in the best interest of the child.

Sometimes shared custodians request the court to modify the physical custody arrangements while leaving shared legal custody in place. This may happen as a result of interference by the primary physical custodian, or his or her instability, or his or her remarriage.

Very often retirement, voluntary or forced, warrants consideration of a change in circumstances. Retirement reduces the income of the retiree, and this reduction may grounds for modification of support. As in other motions for modification, changed circumstances very often involve the reduced or increased income of one of the parties.

Sometimes incarceration creates postjudgment litigation. When one spouse is imprisoned after the divorce, he or she may argue that imprisonment is grounds for modification of support. In general courts have rejected incarceration as a defense against spousal support.

See Plenary Hearing.

See also Retirement; Complaint for Modification; Modification; Good Cause; Incarceration; Modification.

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