Post-Divorce Modifications: Reasons to Change a Court Order
Whether reached through out-of-court negotiations or litigation, divorce cases are finalized through court orders. These orders are binding legal obligations that detail how property is divided and dispersed after divorce, which spouse has custody and rights to visitation of a child, who pays and receives spousal support, and many other matters. While these agreements are enforceable by the court, meaning you can be held accountable for non-compliance, Texas courts understand that circumstances can change, and provide divorced individuals with the ability to seek modifications.
Under Texas law, modifications to divorce decrees are allowed when both former spouses mutually agree to alter terms, or when there have been material and substantial changes in circumstances of one or both of the parties or a child.
- Mutual Agreement – Many former spouses can remain amicable after a divorce, or gain the ability to better communicate and compromise with a former spouse after the dust settles and time has passed. Should both parties come to an agreement for a modification of any terms in the divorce decree, they can file a petition with the court that will be viewed as a legally acceptable means to change terms and conditions issued as part of their original agreement or court order.
- Material and Substantial Changes – Situations change, which is why Texas permits post-divorce modifications when there are material and substantial changes in the circumstances of one party, both parties, or any minor children involved. For example, courts may approve modifications to support orders if the payor spouse becomes unemployed, or when they undergo significant life-changing events, such as a relocation or becoming disabled.
- Child Support Guideline Changes – Aside from modifying post-divorce modifications through mutual agreement or a material and substantial change in circumstances, Texas family courts may also modify child support orders issued in a divorce if at least three years have passed since the support order was issued or last modified, and monthly payments differ by 20% or $100 from payments that would be awarded under current child support calculations. However, if the amount of support ordered was higher or lower than what it would be based on child support guidelines at the time of the divorce, the court requires a showing of material and substantial change for the child support modification.
What Can be Modified?
Under the Texas Family Code, courts allow for modifications of spousal support, child custody, and child support. However, there may be other options for addressing certain issues of property division after a divorce. Our legal team can help you explore whether you may have the ability to do so when reviewing your unique circumstances. Below, we discuss modifications to support and custody arrangements, as well as justifications that would warrant them:
- Spousal Support Modifications – Spousal support, also referred to as spousal maintenance, is a continued financial obligation one former spouse owes the other, and it can drastically impact the financial well-being of one or both parties. Because changes in circumstances can impact one’s ability to pay spousal support, modifications are permitted. However, any party that petitions for a modification must prove a material and substantial change in circumstances, which may include job loss and unemployment, substantial involuntary reductions in income, significant injury or disability, or other events that create substantial changes in financial circumstances. In some cases, final divorce orders outline a “sliding” support scale, which may gradually decrease payments to the recipient spouse. Spousal support can also be terminated when a former spouse cohabitates with another person or remarries.
- Child Support Modifications – Material and substantial changes in circumstances can also provide the basis for modifications of child support. This can include a child with changing medical issues or disabilities that increase their needs and require additional expenses, changes in financial circumstances of either parent, a paying party having another child to support, or a variety of other reasons.
- Child Custody & Visitation Modifications – Terms regarding conservatorship (custody) and possession and access to a child (visitation) can be modified after divorce. Parties seeking the modification must prove a material and substantial change that warrants a modification however. This can include relocations and move-aways, children who express the desire to live with a new parent, improvement in the lives of parents who were not initially awarded visitation rights or custody, domestic violence or criminal activity, voluntary relinquishment, and other changes. In any matter, courts will only approve modifications to custody and visitation arrangements if they are in the best interests of the child.
Considering a Post-Divorce Modification? Call Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers Today!
Whether you are able to mutually agree to modifications or wish to petition the court due to material and substantial changes in circumstances, enlisting the support of proven divorce and family law attorneys can ensure you take the proper steps required to prove your needs, solidify a workable long-term plan, and protect your rights and interests. At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, our family law attorneys have been recognized for our ability to deliver the personalized and tailored representation clients throughout Collin and Denton County need when seeking modifications, and are readily available to discuss your situation, needs, and options.
Learn how our award-winning attorneys can help you by speaking with a member of our legal team during an initial consultation. Call (940) 293-2313 or contact us online to get started.