Does the modified decree overrule the old decree even if it is ambiguous?

Divorce Attorney Angela FoyQuestion:

We recently had our divorce decree modified. The older decree said we split parenting time with the children during the winter break so I have them half the week, and my wife has the children the other half.

The new, recently modified decree said I am allowed to see the children one week each December. So could I use this week during the winter break even though it doesn’t specifically address who gets the children during school breaks?

Which decree governs?


Most likely the newest decree governs, which means that you have a week each December. I do not practice in your state, so I can only speak in generalities based on my experience.

It is common for placement and custody orders to change as the children grow. The current order is the controlling order. In most jurisdictions, the old orders not directly affected or modified by the newer order remain in effect. However, I read your descriptions above that the newest decree modified the older decree.

It is usually best practice to discuss the actual days of placement in advance so that no surprises happen during transfers in front of the children. However, even this practice may depend on the details of your case.

You should have the decrees reviewed by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. The exact schedule may depend on many factors, and other provisions in the decree may also have an impact. You should discuss your case with a domestic litigation attorney in your jurisdiction.


Angela Foy is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisc., office of Cordell & Cordell where her primary practice is exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Foy is licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin, the U.S. District Court, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin. 

 Ms. Foy received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She then continued on to receive her Juris Doctor from Marquette University.

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