Houston Divorce Modification Lawyer
Life variables often change - and because of this many arrangements in a divorce decree or child custody agreement may need to be revisited.
Thankfully, Texas law allows modifications to divorce decrees or a suit affecting a parent-child relationship (SAPCR) if both parties mutually decide to alter the terms OR if there have been material and substantial changes in circumstances for a party or a child. In some cases, enforcement actions can also be taken when one party fails to abide by court orders.
Modifying Family Law Orders in Texas
Divorce, child custody, and supports orders are based on the prevailing facts and circumstances at the time they are issued. Should circumstances change, divorced spouses or parents may have a few available options for seeking modifications. These generally include:
- Mutual agreement: Whether a divorce was amicable or distance and time has provided greater clarity, former spouses may work together and make a mutual decision to alter terms of their divorce decree. In Texas, a petition by both parties for an agreed-upon modification is a legally acceptable way to change the previously “final” terms in the original divorce.
- Proving material and substantial changes in circumstances: Texas allows modifications if it can be shown that circumstances changed significantly for one party or the child. For example, petitions to modify may stem from unemployment, parental relocation, or major life events like disability or remarriage. Whatever the situation, courts are more likely to modify financial obligations such as alimony rather than property or debt distributions.
- Other situations: Family court orders may be modified in other situations that don’t fall within the above, including those where older child support orders need to be aligned with current guidelines, or when hidden assets or marital fraud impacted final divorce orders.
What Orders Can be Modified?
The Texas Family Code allows for modifications of spousal maintenance, child support, and custody. While family courts generally do not change property division orders, alterations to final divorce decrees concerning division of assets / debts may be accomplished through other legal means.
- Spousal Maintenance Modifications – In Texas, spousal maintenance may only be modified after proving material and substantial changes in circumstances. In some cases, final decrees may proscribe a “sliding” scale which slowly decreases the amount of alimony. In others, maintenance may be decreased following a payor’s job loss, disability, or involuntary reduction in pay. Alimony modifications may also stem from a recipient’s improved financial circumstances, such as a significant increase in income or wealth acquired through cohabitation. If recipients remarry or no longer require alimony, spousal maintenance can be terminated.
- Child Support Modifications – Texas family courts may modify child support if there have been material, substantial changes in circumstances of either parent or the child. That could include a child’s chronic illness (which necessitates additional support for medical expenses), a paying parent having another child to support, or when at least 3 years have passed since the order was issued or last modified and the amount of support differs by 20% or $100 from what would be awarded under current child support guidelines. Courts consider many factors when ruling on child support modifications, including the child’s “best interests.”
Custody and Visitation Modifications – Parents may seek
child custody modifications related to conservatorship or possession and access (i.e. visitation times
and length of visitation, surrender locations, designation of custodial
geographic restrictions) upon circumstantial changes, or when one parent has
consistently violated court orders. However, the burden of proof is high, and requires a petitioning party
to prove, in addition to the child’s best interests:
- Material and substantial changes in circumstances of a conservator or the child;
- A child 12 years or older has a preference for primary conservator;
- Child endangerment, abuse, or neglect; or
- Primary care and possession has been voluntarily relinquished for at least 6 months (so long as it is not the result of a military order).
Call to discuss modifications and your available options: (713) 909-7323.
Enforcement of Court Orders: How an Attorney Can Help
If one party fails to abide by court orders established in a family law case, enforcement actions may provide a means to secure needed obligations, or compel the other party into consistent compliance.
The Texas Family Code allows affected parties to seek court intervention to enforce child custody, child support, or alimony orders for various reasons, including:
- Failures to pay spousal support
- Failures to comply with contractual provisions (i.e. turning over assets, paying debts as ordered, selling or refinancing property, etc.)
- Obstruction of custody / visitation orders
- Issuance of protective/ restraining orders
Divorce and custody enforcement actions are subject statutory time limitations. Speak with an attorney to discuss your options and potential relief from violations.
Getting Started: Modifying or Enforcing Your Family Court Order
Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C. is readily available to speak with clients throughout Houston, Harris County, and beyond regarding modifications or enforcement of divorce, parental, and family law orders. During an initial consultation, an attorney can evaluate your case, explain your rights, and discuss how we can help you navigate the most appropriate course of action as swiftly and intelligently as possible.
Call (713) 909-7323 or contact us online to speak with a lawyer.