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Modifying your divorce decree in Texas

So much effort, time and thought goes into the creation of a Final Decree of Divorce. If you have been through a divorce you know exactly what I am talking about. From the time that your Original Petition is filed until you or your spouse go before the judge, Decree in hand, to finish out your case it is a stressful process that requires patience and a strong will to complete.

On top of all this, there is no guarantee that the results of your divorce will be anything close to what you wanted to achieve. Strong advocates, like those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, help but even that is no guarantee.

The majority of divorce cases in Texas conclude not with a trial in front of a judge but in mediation. Mediation occurs shortly before your trial is scheduled and is essentially a last ditch effort to attempt to settle your case. You and your attorney will go to a neutral, third-party attorney’s office along with your spouse and their attorney.

The mediator acts like a ping pong ball, bouncing back between the room where you are and the room where your spouse is in an attempt to negotiate the issues in your case. A successful mediation session results in a Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA). An unsuccessful session results in you and your spouse taking your case to the judge.

Regardless of how your divorce concludes, the bottom line is that there will be final orders to document and that is the purpose of your Final Decree of Divorce. It encapsulates every order that was either agreed to or rendered by the judge in your case.

It contains the marching orders that you and your spouse will abide by in regard to your children, your finances, your marital home, retirement funds, etc. It is extremely specific and detailed. This is by design. The court does not want there to be any question as to how you need to perform in order to be in accord with your Decree and the same rules apply to your spouse.

As time passes, your Divorce Decree may need to be updated

Times change. You get older, your ex-spouse does and more importantly, your children do. Their circumstances or yours or theirs will change inevitably. Best case scenario those changes do not require your Divorce Decree to be changed. In some situations, however, those changes in life require amending your Divorce Decree.

A Modification of your Divorce Decree can be filed in the same court that heard your original Divorce. If you believe that the change in circumstances of someone related to that Decree has changed so substantially as to merit a modification then you have the ability to do so. This blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC will detail the methods of doing so as well as tips on how to best ensure a successful result for yourself and your family.

A Substantial Change in Circumstances are needed to justify a modification

The Texas Family Code contains the laws that govern modification cases in our state and you need to be aware that the law does not favor modifications except in situations where a substantial change in circumstances has been experienced by one of the parties to the Divorce or a child. The change in circumstances has to have been experienced since the time of the signing of the Divorce Decree.

A petition to modify a divorce decree can be filed with your divorce court as soon as one year after the Decree was signed by the Judge in most cases. Most commonly spousal support, child support, and child custody orders are modified in Texas. Let’s walk through each subject in greater detail.

Modifying a Spousal Maintenance Order

Spousal Maintenance in Texas is what is commonly referred to in other states as “alimony”. In situations where your marriage lasted over ten years or if domestic violence occurred in your marriage within two years of your divorce, spousal maintenance can be ordered. Other situations that merit the award of spousal maintenance are if you are suffering from a disability that causes you to be unable to work or if you are caring for a child with disabilities.

If you are able to show a material and substantial change in circumstances- of either yourself or your ex-spouse- you may be able to modify your orders regarding spousal maintenance. If you are the spouse who is on the hook for paying spousal maintenance then you may be able to eliminate the order to pay if you show that your ex-spouse is no longer disabled or if your ex-spouse is cohabitating with an adult with whom they share a sexual relationship.

Modifying a Child Support Order

Child support orders in Texas may be modified if the circumstances of the child or any party to the Divorce have seen a material and substantial change since the order was signed or if 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 accord with the child support guidelines contained in the Texas Family Code.

Has your ex-spouse’s salary increased, allowing him or her to pay more in support on a monthly basis?

Have the needs of one of your children grown dramatically since the order was rendered, thus justifying a modification? On the other hand- has your ex-spouse allowed your child to live with you primarily? If so you have the right to request a modification eliminating your requirement to pay support as a result.

Child Custody Modification

The word “custody” actually does not appear in the Texas Family Code, but is rather referred to as either “possession” or “access”. You and your ex-spouse are either the managing conservator of your child or the possessory conservator in most cases.

The managing conservator determines the primary residence of your child and has the right to receive child support. The possessory conservator has a visitation schedule set up for him or her and also has the right to pay child support.

You or your spouse may modify a Divorce Decree as it relates to possession or access if the circumstances of your child or either party have materially and substantially changed since the date your order was signed. If your child is at least twelve years old a motion can be filed to have the child confer with the judge in their chambers as to whom he or she wants to have the right to determine their primary residence.

Finally, whichever parent, you or your ex-spouse, who has this right to determine the child’s primary residence may voluntarily relinquish the title as primary caregiver to the other parent for a period of at least six months. If this occurs the parent who gains primary caregiver status may file a motion to modify the divorce decree in order to name him or herself as the primary conservator of the child.

Questions on modification cases in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

If you find yourself with questions regarding the modification of a Final Decree of Divorce please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week to answer your questions in a free of charge consultation.


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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Managing a Family Law case in Texas
  2. Deviating from the Guideline amounts for child support and Modifying a Child Support Order
  3. Defining a material and substantial change in a child support modification case
  4. Modification of Spousal Maintenance in Texas
  5. Reasons to not file a Child Custody Modification Suit in Texas
  6. Modifying a child custody order: A how to guide for Texas parents
  7. Child Support in Texas: What is the most you will have to pay and what are the exceptions to that rule?
  8. The Dirty Trick of Quitting Your Job to Avoid Child Support During a Texas Divorce
  9. Can I get child support while my Texas divorce is pending?
  10. Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Have Joint Custody of My Child in Texas?
  11. Can I Sue My Ex for Retroactive or Back Child Support in Texas?
  12. Child Support and College Tuition in Texas

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Support Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child support, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX child support lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our child support lawyers in HoustonTX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles child support cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.


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