How to Amend Divorce Papers
By Heather Frances J.D.
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No matter how well-drafted and accurate your divorce papers are when you file them, you may subsequently need to amend them. Perhaps your circumstances have changed significantly or you discovered more information relevant to your divorce. If so, you may be able to amend, or change, your divorce papers before the court issues your divorce decree.
State laws vary concerning divorce procedures, but divorce papers often include a petition for divorce (called a complaint in some jurisdictions) and a summons. The petition or complaint outlines the basics of your case, including facts supporting your reasons for seeking to dissolve your marriage and information about what you want to receive in the divorce decree. After you file your petition with the court, you must serve your spouse with a copy of the documents you filed along with a summons listing the court’s initial deadlines.
You might want to amend your divorce petition to include topics you didn’t address the first time, such as spousal support, or you might need to change the terms of child custody that you proposed to the court, or you might simply need to include a change of job or address. No matter the reason for the amendment, you will likely need to file a motion to amend your petition with the clerk of the court where you filed your original petition. If your spouse has not responded to the first petition or it is your first amendment, the court may allow you to simply file a new petition. You must provide your spouse with a copy of the new document.
Depending on your court’s procedures, you may find it easier to amend your petition if your spouse agrees to the amendment. If your reason for amending the petition is something minor and uncontested, he may agree to the change. If so, you can include that information in your motion or amendment, and the court may not require a hearing since you both already agree.
If your spouse will not agree to the amendment, the court may require a hearing to listen to your position and your spouse’s position before making a decision. Generally, you must provide notice to your spouse about the hearing date. Each court has its own procedures and requirements for scheduling hearings and providing notice.
Under Texas law, you don’t need the court’s permission to file an amended petition at any time prior to seven days before the final trial in your case, as long as the filing does not cause surprise for your spouse. If you file the amended petition closer to trial than seven days or if your spouse claims that the petition is too much of a surprise, you must receive the court’s permission to amend your petition and this usually requires a hearing.
In San Diego, you can amend your petition once without the court’s permission as long as your spouse has not yet filed his response. Simply file your amended petition and serve a copy on your spouse; he will receive additional time to respond.
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.