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Getting final orders in your divorce case can be cathartic for those who have suffered the strain of long and drawn-out family court proceedings; sadly, litigation surrounding your former marriage is not always over for good when the initial decree is entered.

If one or both the parties experience a significant change after the divorce decree, the parties can petition the court to modify child support, child custody, and spousal support, among other items. The modification should be filed in the same court where the original proceedings were handled.

Whether major or minor, a Texas divorce modification requires the requesting party to demonstrate a material and substantial change in personal circumstances. The most common reasons for post-divorce modifications usually involve financial needs and changes in child custody circumstances.

There are two main ways to file for a modification of child support in Texas: going through the Texas child support review process or going to court. Child support modification in Texas is not retroactive, meaning the custodial parent cannot receive back payments for income made before the petition for a change in child support was filed.

If your ex-spouse has not complied with the original terms of your divorce decree, you have the right to take them back to court for an enforcement action. Common reasons for enforcement include not following the official custody schedule and refusing to pay child support.

Divorce Modification Frequently Asked Questions

What is a modification case?

In a modification case, one or both parties to a divorce and/or child custody case asks a judge to change the existing custody, visitation, child support, medical support, or dental support order.

What should I do if I’m served with a petition to modify my divorce decree?

Immediately and carefully read the modification papers to determine if there is anything that needs your urgent attention. Is there a standing order regarding child custody or distribution of marital assets you are accused of violating? Has the judge signed a temporary restraining order? Have any hearings been scheduled? If any of these issues exist, you should seek representation from a Texas family lawyer as soon as possible.

You have 20 days from the day you are served with the modification papers to file an answer. If you fail to properly and timely answer, the modification could occur without your input. Texas law is very exacting about the statutory deadline for filing an answer to a petition. Again, consult with counsel about how much time you have to file your answer and to help you determine how to best address the issues presented in the modification petition.

What do I have to prove to change the spousal support amount in my divorce decree?

In order to secure a modification in spousal support, the party that petitions for the change must prove a material and substantial change in circumstances. Typically, the following will meet this requirement:

  • Job loss or unemployment
  • A substantial involuntary reduction in income
  • A significant injury or disability
  • The spouse receiving support remarries or cohabitates with another person
  • Other events that create substantial changes in financial circumstances

What do I need to prove to ask for a change in child custody or visitation?

To change an existing child custody or visitation decree, you must prove that the change is in your child’s best interest and that at least one of the following has occurred:

  • There has been a material and substantial change in the circumstances of the child, a conservator, or another person affected by the original order
  • The child is at least 12 years-old and tells the judge who they want to live with
  • The person with primary custody has allowed someone else to have primary care and possession of the child for at least 6 months (does not apply to deployed active-duty military)

My ex-spouse pays monthly court-ordered child support for our child. Now that my ex is having another child with a new partner, can they get this child support amount reduced?

Having an additional child is one of the allowable changes in circumstances that can form the basis for seeking a modification of child support. If you are concerned that your ex might try to reduce the amount they are currently paying for child support, you should seek legal counsel immediately to determine how this could affect your current situation and what can be done to ensure your child’s best interests are taken into account.

If my spouse and I agree on a modification of our divorce decree, do we still have to go through the court system?

Yes, even when both parties agree to a change in divorce decree terms, they must still file a petition for modification in the Texas family court where the divorce was finalized. While the parties can seek to represent themselves in divorce decree modification proceedings, it is always advisable to talk to a qualified Texas divorce attorney first. As a legally-binding court order, a divorce decree can only be modified if correct procedures are followed. Not all requests for modification are granted by the court, especially if they involve child support. And sometimes, one party later regrets agreeing to the modifications that were granted by the court. To make sure you are being protected during this process, it is best to seek legal advice before you and your ex decide to go the DIY divorce modification route.

Where should I seek a modification of an existing child support order if the child in question no longer lives in the county where the decree was made?

If the child has lived in another Texas county for the last 6 months, you can ask the court to transfer the case to the child’s new county of residence. If your child has lived in another state for the last 6 months, the Texas court may have lost jurisdiction over and thus the power to make or modify orders concerning your child. Talk to a child support lawyer to find out where you should file your petition to modify child support.

 

Divorce Modification Attorney Brazoria County

Whether you need to file a modification or are facing a request for a modification, we can represent your best interests. While your divorce is final, your divorce agreement may not be. Our Texas modification and enforcement lawyers provide a compassionate but thorough approach to family law. Have you, your child, or your ex-spouse gone through a major life change? If so, you should look into modification immediately. Likewise, if one party to a divorce decree continues to act against a standing court order, you should look into enforcement.

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Terry & Roberts serves clients throughout Brazoria County, TX including in Angleton, Pearland, Lake Jackson, Alvin, Freeport, Clute, and Manvel.

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