Finalizing a divorce can be a very lengthy process involving multiple mediations over issues including the division of assets, child custody, child support payments, and alimony, among other contentious issues. Once the divorce decree has been signed, the divorce process is complete; but situations may arise over time that require the decree to be modified. Keep a copy of your divorce decree in your personal records and make sure you understand all of its details so you know when a modification may be needed. When a substantial life event occurs that affects one or more of the terms of the original decree, speak to an experienced divorce attorney to start the modification process.
Why Modify a Divorce Decree?
Life changes as you, your former spouse, and your children grow older and new life events occur. Should your income, relationships, assets, medical history, or other changes happen, the original divorce decree may need to be modified to properly represent the current situation of all parties involved, including your children. The most common modifications requested involve child support, child custody, and spousal support. Additionally, one party may not be abiding by the terms of the divorce decree, necessitating modifications be made as a result. No matter the reason, hiring an experienced divorce attorney to navigate your divorce modification will greatly increase the chance of a favorable decision.
Some situations in which a divorce decree modification may be needed include:
- The noncustodial parent paying child support loses their job or switches to a new job that pays significantly less. They can ask the court for reduced child support payments.
- The noncustodial parent paying child support has an increase in income. The custodial parent has the right to request additional child support.
- The child has an increase in medical expenses or other needs that require financial assistance. The noncustodial parent may be required to provide additional financial support.
- The child has a decrease in medical expenses or other needs that previously required financial assistance. The noncustodial parent is entitled to ask for reduced child support payments.
- If a parent relocates and wants to move the child out of town or out of state, a modification may be needed depending on the existing custody agreement.
- If the custodial parent’s home has suspected drug use, violence, or a gross lack of supervision, the noncustodial parents can request custody.
- If the ex-spouse receiving alimony is no longer disabled or is cohabitating with an adult with whom they share a sexual relationship, a request to stop spousal support payments may be made.
Parents don’t typically request to modify a child custody agreement after a divorce is finalized unless their circumstances change significantly. Unfortunately, there are also some changes that can happen at the custodial parent’s home that require the child to be removed from their custody. You or your ex-spouse can modify the divorce decree as it pertains to possession or access if the circumstances of your child and/or either party involved have materially changed since the date on which your decree was signed. However, the child’s best interests must always remain at the forefront of the parents’ divorce agreement. Note that if your child is twelve years or older, a motion can be filed to have the child confer with the judge in chambers to express their opinion about with whom they would like to live.
How to Modify a Divorce Decree
With the help of a knowledgeable family law attorney, a divorce decree modification can be filed in the same court that originally heard your divorce case. Either party can move to modify the decree as soon as one year after it was signed by the judge (in most cases). Modifications do require going through a detailed process and having an experienced divorce attorney on your side will be essential. A modification is a legal amendment made to the original decree. Once approved, it will essentially “update” the original decree to reflect the new changes. All modifications must be approved by the court to be legally enforceable.
Texas Divorce Attorneys
Divorces can be complex battles that require legal guidance. The various factors influencing the amount of child support and alimony, and the child custody schedule should be carefully reviewed in order to protect all parties involved. If your divorce, custody, or child support terms need modifying, you likely have a lot of important questions and concerns. We are here to help. Contact the team at Terry & Roberts to discuss your case today.