As divorce is a big change in many people’s lives, there are changes in family life after the divorce, too, such as relocation and remarriage. When minor children are involved, the judge will issue an order for custody, visitation, child support, and health/dental care orders as part of the divorce case. The exception is when a final court order already exists for the children’s custody and support, and no changes are needed.
Many new situations can render an existing order unworkable. If you’re wondering how to continue these obligations with major changes, consider requesting a modification.
What Grounds Are Available For Modification In Texas?
Anytime you have a substantial change of circumstances, you can request a modification to your divorce order. Most people request these changes for:
• Child support (increase or decrease)
• Child conservatorship (changes to custody)
• Child access and possession (visitation schedules)
• Spousal support (alimony)
For instance, if one parent becomes disabled or unemployed, and can’t pay the same amount they were ordered by the court, he or she can request a reduction in the amount of monthly child support payments. The order can be temporary if the parent believes he or she can return to the previously ordered amount or permanently reduced if they can’t.
Visitation can be updated when children are older, move to new schools, or if a parent’s work schedule changes.
Some child support orders may have geographic restrictions. That is, a child cannot be taken out of a specific area without the permission of the other parent. That means that one parent may not be able to take a child more than 100 miles outside of his or her home area without asking, such as on vacation.
How To Modify Your Order Post-Divorce
Getting a modification is not a difficult process, especially if both parents agree that it’s needed.
An uncontested suit is one in which both parents agree. It requires that both parents sign the forms to file the modifications suit. If the other parent does not agree, does not respond, or fails to appear in court, the suit can be completed by default.
Should the other parent file an answer or waiver of service and refuse to sign the order to modify the parent-child relationship, the suit is considered “contested”. The case must then be set for a final hearing, and the other parent must have at least 45 days’ notice of the hearing. While the other two methods can be done without an attorney, it’s better to have an attorney, especially if the case becomes contested.
Parents can get a modification in child support if it has been more than three years since the order was made or last modified, and the monthly amount of the child support order differs by either $100 or 20% from the amount that would have been awarded according to Texas’ child support guidelines.
If you and your former spouse decide to make changes without going through the court, the court cannot enforce these arrangements. For instance, if one party agrees to a reduced visitation of schedule based on their work schedule, but then changes their mind, the court has no jurisdiction. Therefore, you won’t be able to require the other parent to comply with the informal arrangement.
One example would be if the custodial parent goes out of town for work for a few weeks or even a few months. The two parents make an informal arrangement that the children would stay with the non-custodial parent while he or she works out of town. Technically, this is a violation of the court order. But should the non-custodial parent decide to refuse to return the children to the custodial parent, the court may not be able to enforce this action since it was not made aware of the changes.
If you and your former spouse are considering changing the schedule, speak with a Tarrant County family law attorney to ensure that these changes comply with your divorce order, or if a modification will be needed.
Contact Wendy L. Hart For Modification Assistance
If things have changed since your divorce was finalized, you can request a modification of your child visitation and child support orders. Wendy L. Hart has been working with families in Tarrant County for more than 20 years. When it’s time to update your post-divorce order, she can help you through the process.
Call us at (817) 842-233 or use our online contact form to schedule your appointment.