Divorce Modification in Texas



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Anyone that needs more information about modifying a divorce decree to change custody details, visitation rights, child support conditions, or living situations should read this guide to Texas divorce modifications. Divorce modifications are different in every state, and in Texas the laws are as complex as any other state's laws. The following article describes in detail Texas laws pertaining to divorce modifications.

Modification of Divorce Decree

Divorce decrees typically cannot be modified, but in specific circumstances, a decree may be modified due to changed circumstances relating to child support, child custody, or spousal support. Modifications allow former spouses to make changes to the divorce decree upon any radical life changes.

Modifying Spousal Support

In Texas, spouses typically are not granted any form of support aside from child support, but in unique situations, former spouses may be entitled to “maintenance.” Maintenance is awarded when domestic violence occurred within two years of the divorce decree, or upon extreme circumstances when a marriage lasted over ten years, such as physical disabilities, children with disabilities, or a lack of earning capacity. Maintenance orders are limited to a certain amount of time depending on the circumstances or a court may rule that the maintenance must continue as long as a disability continues.
However, maintenance orders can be modified by a showing of a material and substantial change in circumstances of either party. This may include the eradication of a disability, the new ability of a former spouse to find employment, or even a change of circumstances of the former spouse paying the maintenance order.

Modifying Child Support

In Texas, child support orders may be modified if (1) the circumstances of the child or parent have materially and substantially changed since the date of the order; or (2) it has been three years since the order was rendered or modified and the monthly amount of child support differs by either 20% or $100 from the amount that would be in accordance with Texas child support guidelines. A court may take into consideration an increased salary by the parent who is paying child support or increased needs of the child. However, a court may not consider any net resources of a new spouse (the child’s step-parent). A change in physical possession from one parent to the other may also be a cause for modification of child support.

Modifying Child Custody

In Texas, child custody is typically referred to in terms of “access” as related to the title of the parent as either managing conservator or possessory conservator. Either parent may modify the divorce decree which provides for the amount of access if the parent is able to prove that modification is in the best interest of the child and (1) the circumstances of the child or parent have materially and substantially changed since the date of the order; (2) the child is at least 12 years old and expressed to the court in chambers the name of the parent who is the child’s preference to have the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence; or (3) the parent with primary custody has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months (this does not include a period of military deployment).

A parent may modify the order regarding the designation of the parent with primary custody within one year if the parent attaches an affidavit which contains one of the following facts: (1) that the child’s present environment may endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development; (2) the parent seeking modification has primary custody of the child and the modification is in the best interest of the child; or (3) the parent with primary custody has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child for at least six months and the modification is in the best interest of the child. Texas courts have construed this section to apply in instances where one parent decides to move the child across the country or to a different country against the child’s wishes.
Child custody orders may also be modified due to increased expenses because of a change in residency, or upon conviction of a parent for child abuse or family violence.

Texas Family Code

The Texas Family Code, as noted above, typically allows changes to a divorce decree upon a showing of a material and substantial change. This may be difficult to interpret, but based on prior Texas family law cases, this change typically relates to any unexpected occurrence which affects the former spouses or the child, such as unemployment, debilitating health problems, or a cross-country move.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frank E Mann, P. C.
Frank Mann is the founding attorney of the Law Offices of Frank E Mann, P. C. in Houston, Texas. He practices family law, and has helped thousands of families find peaceful resolutions to their family legal issues. He is an experienced divorce lawyer, taking cases involving child custody, child support, paternity, child abuse, and many other related cases.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.