After a divorce is final, life continues and people go in many directions. Your decree is signed by a judge to address your needs, your spouse’s needs, and the children’s needs at that time. Because everyone experiences change, your divorce decree from several years ago may not meet your needs now.
If your small children are now teenagers, your spouse is remarried, or there have been substantial changes in either your or your former spouse’s circumstances, you can go back to court and request a modification to your divorce decree.
Grounds For Divorce Decree Modification
The most common reasons for divorce modification in Texas are:
- Child support
- Child conservatorship (custody)
- Child access and possession (visitation schedules)
- Spousal support
Modifications can be used to increase (or decrease) financial obligations. For instance, if the parent paying child support has lost his or her job, they can petition the court to reduce their payments until they are able to resume the court-ordered amount.
A parent can also request a modification to include a geographic limitation on where the child’s primary parent may live. This can prevent a parent from potentially moving across the state, or out of Texas entirely, and taking the child or children with them.
In the event spousal support is ordered, the paying spouse can request a modification if:
- There is a substantial decrease in income, such as job loss or disability
- The recipient is no longer disabled
- The recipient has remarried or is cohabitating with another individual with whom they share a relationship.
Courts generally frown upon informal agreements that do not involve a court order. Because there was no court order, it’s not enforceable if one party deviates from the agreement.
If a parent allows the other to skip a few payments of child support while he or she is unemployed, the Texas Attorney General’s office will begin collections anyway. That’s one of the many reasons to seek a modification through family court.
Generally, you can request a modification of the divorce decree after “a substantial change.” However, either party can request a modification after one year.
In the case of child support orders, changes can be made once every three years, unless there is an urgency, such as a child’s illness. Modifications can be made when a substantial and material change has occurred for one or both parents, but only three years after the order or the last change. This can include changes in the needs of a child, such as an injury or illness, or if the parent paying the child support has a substantial increase in income. If the child ends up living primarily with the parent paying child support, he or she can also request a modification to end those payments.
Texas has a 30-day time frame to request a new trial if you or your spouse need to modify the property part of your divorce. A large increase in income won’t be grounds for modification, or if one party becomes disabled. After that, it’s considered complete, unless there is fraud involved.
Should one party refuse to abide by the terms of the decree, the court can step in to enforce the terms.
Get Help With A Fort Worth Divorce Modification
A divorce can be a difficult and complex undertaking. Over time, changes to your circumstances may require updates in your divorce. We’re ready to help.
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County who need help in a divorce. As a divorcee herself, Wendy understands the process as well as the difficulties involved. We represent both men and women in divorce and other family law cases. We’ll make sure you’re treated fairly and will protect your interests and your children.