Unfortunately, in some cases, a final divorce judgment may not equate to the end of the divorce process, and the accompanying emotional turmoil. Sometimes, the end may be the beginning of more litigation.
Thus, while the marital status is terminated, custody and visitation rights are defined, support obligations are established; and, the property divided by the judgment, sometimes one party may still not be satisfied and will continue the litigation.
While continued litigation post-judgment is upsetting, as well often costly, there are a few things divorcees should be aware of following the entry of their divorce judgment:
- Ongoing financial disclosures: If your judgment includes support orders, you and your former spouse may request from each other, once a year after entry of judgment, for a completed Income and Expense Declaration, and copies of your most recent state and federal tax returns even if no legal proceeding is pending.
- Put it in writing: If you and your former spouse agree to change the terms of the judgment, make sure to put it in writing. Even better, contact your attorney and instruct them to prepare a Stipulation modifying the Judgment which will then become a court order. Often, parties will verbally agree to deviate from the custody plan, or change the support orders. However, most judgments include language prohibiting oral modifications. Thus, make sure to properly understand the terms of the judgment, including the various boilerplate provisions, so that if you and your former spouse do indeed decide to change some of the terms of the judgment, there is a formal writing, and even better, a court order, supporting the modification.
- Read the boilerplate: As noted above, make sure to read your entire judgment, and have a true understanding of its terms. For example, if you chose to mediate your divorce, your divorce judgment will likely have provisions mandating future mediation before anyone files a post judgment motion with the court. Having a good grasp on your judgment will only help you navigate any potential future litigation with your former spouse.
- Keep communications civil and business-like: Divorce proceedings are emotionally demanding situations which often results in emotionally-driven communications. To keep tensions low, consider communicating with your former spouse in a civil and business-like way. Refrain from inflammatory statements. Be respectful. Keep it simple.
Post judgment litigation can be very frustrating for most people because it comes after what one thinks is the end of their divorce, only to then find themselves right back in a lawyer’s office and possibly even the courtroom. While there is likely no way to avoid this possibility, the best thing you can do is to understand that this can occur and make the best choices possible in addressing conflict. Having hindsight as a benefit, often both parties can make better choices when they find themselves in conflict after the conclusion of the divorce.