Modifying Divorce Decrees in Texas

Modifying Your Texas Divorce Decree

If you’ve been through a divorce in Texas, you know precisely how emotionally exhausting that is, and once you’ve made it to the other side, the last thing you want to think about is going back in and making changes – even if they’re in your best interest. Understandably, you don’t want to rock that boat. Sometimes, however, circumstances change to such a degree that the divorce decree no longer adequately addresses the issues, and a modification is the best mechanism for correcting this discrepancy. If you have questions about potential modifications to your divorce decree, consult with an experienced Houston family law attorney today.

Your Divorce Decree

Every Texas divorce process begins with filing an Original Petition for Divorce and ends when the judge signs the final Divorce Decree. The process is stressful, and there are no guarantees about the outcome. Most divorces are concluded via mediation rather than in front of a judge. Mediation involves you and your divorcing spouse, your respective attorneys, and a neutral third party, all striving to negotiate compromises on the issues involved in your case. When mediation is successful, it ends with a Mediated Settlement Agreement. If you cannot come to a resolution through mediation, your case will go before the judge. No matter how your divorce is resolved, you’ll end up with a Final Decree of Divorce that outlines every order determined (no matter how the determination was accomplished). This decree is highly specific and dictates how you and your ex will proceed with child custody arrangements, finances, and the division of assets and debts.

Circumstances Evolve

As your children get older and you and your ex-spouse’s careers and lives evolve, your divorce decree may or may not keep up with your lives. If your situation has changed enough to warrant modification, a legal mechanism exists for pursuing such a change. Except in situations where you, your ex, or your children have experienced a substantial change in circumstances (that occurred after the divorce was signed), the law doesn’t favor such modifications. If you believe your situation warrants modification, speak with a knowledgeable Houston divorce lawyer today.

Petition to Modify a Divorce Decree

Generally, you can file a petition to modify a divorce decree after at least one year since your original decree was executed. The most common modifications involve spousal support, child support, and child custody orders. Let’s take a closer look:

Child Support Modification

If you or your children’s circumstances have substantially changed since your divorce order was signed, your child support orders may be modifiable. Further, suppose it’s been three years since your child support orders were signed or were previously modified, and the monthly amount of your child support differs from the current Texas child support guidelines contained in the Texas Family Code by 20 percent (or by at least $100). In that case, your child support orders may be modifiable. Changes such as a spouse’s increased salary, a change in your children’s needs, or a change in with whom your children are primarily living could warrant a child-support modification request.

Child Custody Modification

What you probably think of as the State of Texas references child custody as “possession” or “access.” The managing conservator’s parent determines the children’s primary residence and is entitled to child support (if it is part of the decree). In contrast, the possessory conservator is generally granted a visitation schedule with the children and is obligated to pay child support (if it is part of the decree). Suppose the managing conservator voluntarily relinquishes the role as the primary caregiver for at least six months. In that case, the parent who takes on the role can file for a modification that names him or herself as the primary caregiver. Further, once a child reaches the age of 12, a motion can be filed that allows the child to discuss his or her opinions related to primary residency with the presiding judge in the judge’s chambers. Issues related to your children’s custody arrangements are your top priority, and if you have concerns, consult with an experienced Houston family law attorney today.

Spousal Support Modification

What many other states call alimony, Texas identifies as spousal maintenance. There is a presumption against awarding maintenance unless the marriage lasted over ten years or other specific circumstances are present. A significant change in circumstances could warrant a modification to the amount or duration of spousal support or could eliminate the support. Spousal support is based on highly specific circumstances, so if your spousal support order warrants modification, you need experienced legal counsel.

Making Modifications

Sometimes, an ex-spouse simply doesn’t adhere to the arrangements outlined in the divorce decree, and that’s unfortunate. Still, it does not mean you can modify your own to remedy the situation. For example, if your ex isn’t paying you the child support you’re owed, you cannot alter his or her visitation schedule in retaliation. This is a matter for the court, and you must go through the proper channels to rectify the situation. If you, your ex, and/or your children have experienced a significant change in circumstances since your divorce decree was signed, you may be eligible to have that decree modified; an experienced Houston divorce lawyer will explore your best options with you.

If You Have Questions about Modifying Your Divorce Decree, an Experienced Houston Family Law Attorney Can Help

You’ve already been through your divorce and probably don’t want to revisit those difficult times. However, suppose you, your ex, and/or your children have experienced dramatic changes in circumstances. In that case, you may be eligible to modify your divorce decree to accommodate better the circumstances in which you live. While such modifications are often complicated, the dedicated legal team at The Rudisel Law Firm, P.C., in Houston, has the experience and commitment to advocate for the modifications you are entitled to aggressively. We’re here to help, so please contact or call us at 713-781-7775 today.