Family court orders regarding child custody, child support, and alimony/spousal support are legal binding decrees that must be followed by both parties. However, the Texas courts recognize that your life circumstances may change over time making these orders unfair or unviable. That's when a modification can be enacted.
Can You Modify a Court Order?
Where life or financial circumstances substantially change, you have the right to petition the court to modify an existing court order. However, you will have to provide convincing evidence to the court to prevail in this endeavor.
What Constitutes a Substantial Change in Circumstances in Texas?
- A signficant relocation of a parent
- A change in residence that has led to a rise in financial expenses
- A change in employment, i.e. a loss of job
- A change in the needs of the child
- A child abuse or family violence criminal conviction or incarceration of a parent
Agreed vs. Contested Modifications In Texas
When filing a modification case in Texas, it is important to note that individuals have the following two options:
- Filing an agreed modification case: An agreement can be signed by both parties indicating their desire to amend the order and the changes they wish to make. The agreement can then be approved by the judge.
- Proceed with a contested modification: A modification of a custody order must be petitioned by the party wishing to modify it if the parties disagree. At trial, both parties are entitled to appear and present evidence to the judge to support their claims. A final decision will be made by the court regarding the modification.
How to Enforce a Court Order in Texas
Similarly, you can petition the court to have a custody, property division, or support order enforced where the other party is violating its terms. This is generally done through finding the offending party in contempt of court.
The judge then has discretion to require payment, such as child support payments through various means, to impose a fine or other sanctions, or even to send the offending party to jail or put on probation. The Texas court’s ruling will be done to force the offending party to abide by the court order.
Offering Highly-Qualified Legal Representation In Houston
If you need legal advice or help in achieving either of the above family court actions, we recommend that you turn to The Tholstrup Law Firm, L.P. We have decades of experience in dealing with all family law matters in the local courts and can answer any questions you may have. Our firm serves clients throughout greater Houston, Harris County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, and The Woodlands.
Can You Modify a Divorce Decree in Texas?
Yes, the Texas family court does allow for the modification of a divorce decree. This can be done if both parties are in agreement of the changes or if there is a significant shift in life circumstances. In such cases, proof must be provided that circumstances have changed.
When Can You Modify Child Support in Texas?
According to the Texas State Code, child support can be modified based on a couple of grounds.
Family Courts May Modify a Child Support Order If:
- The circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the earlier of a)the date of the order’s rendition or b)the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based
- It has been three years since the ordered was rendered or last modified and the monthly amount of the child support award differs by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines.
Child support orders from another state may also be modified if both parties and the child reside in Texas and the support order has been registered in Texas. If both parties and the child do not all reside in Texas, then the rules of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) apply.
Do I Have to Pay Child Support If I Relinquish Custody?
If a Texas court finds that a person has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months, the court may order the person turning over possession to pay child support. The person who was previously paying child support may also have the child support obligation suspended or have a claim for reimbursement for the period of possession of the child.
When Can You Modify Child Custody in Texas?
The Texas family court may modify an order establishing possession of a child, including the right to designate the child’s primary residence if modification would be in the best interest of the child and if other conditions are met under the state code.
Grounds for Modification of Custody in Texas
- (1) the circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other party affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the earlier of: (A) the date of the rendition of the order; or (B) the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based;
- (2) the child is at least 12 years of age and has filed with the court, in writing, the name of the person who is the child's preference to have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child; or
- (3) the conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months.
Circumstances that make it more likely that a court will modify a child custody order include family violence. If the child’s safety is in danger or if the person with the exclusive right to possession of the child commits an offense involving the abuse of a child or family violence, a court will grant an order that modifies possession of the child.
When Do Temporary & Final Orders Take Effect?
- Temporary Orders - temporary orders on a modification can be implemented within days to several weeks depending upon the severity of the circumstances. A higher standard is required for modification of child custody in Texas under temporary orders so that the child’s situation is not modified in the short term and returned to the prior situation on the longer term.
- Final Orders - final orders normally take approximately 6 months or longer, depending on the analysis and evidence required to get to a final trial, and the county/court in which the case is prosecuted.
Do Grandparents Have Rights in Texas?
A grandparent has standing to file an original suit if the grandparent has had possession of the child at least 6 months ending not more than 90 days before filing suit. In addition, a grandparent can file for managing conservator if (1) the order is necessary because the child’s present environment poses serious questions concerning the child’s health and welfare or (2) a parent, a managing conservator, or custodian consent.
The Court Shall Order Reasonable Access to a Grandchild by a Grandparent If:
- 1) at the time the relief is requested, at least one biological or adoptive parent of the child has not had that parents parental rights terminated; and
- (2) access is in the best interest of the child, and at least one of the following facts is present: (a) the grandparent requesting access to the child is a parent of the parent of the child and that parent of the child has been incarcerated or in jail or prison during the three-month period preceding the filing of the petition for access or has been found by a court to be incompetent or is dead; (b) the parents of the child are divorced or have been living apart for the three-month period preceding the filing of the petition for access or a suit for the dissolution of the parents’ marriage is pending; (c) the child has been abused or neglected by a parent;(d) the child has been adjudicated a delinquent or in need of supervision; (e) the grandparent requesting access to the child is the parent of a person whose parent-child relationship with the child has been terminated by court order; or (f) the child has resided with the grandparent at least 6 months within last 2 years preceding the filing of the petition for access.
Can Spousal Support Be Modified in Texas?
Alimony in Texas is generally contractual as opposed to spousal maintenance ordered by a court. As a result, a change in alimony is dependent upon the contractual terms that provide for the alimony.
Spousal maintenance may be modified pursuant to Texas law. The court may modify an original or modified order or portion of a decree providing for maintenance upon a proper showing of a material and substantial change in circumstances of either party.
How Do I File a Motion to Enforce in Texas?
In order to enforce any family court order, you will need to file the proper motion with the court. At The Tholstrup Law Firm, L.P., our modification lawyer in Houston can provide legal advice and appropriate action to help you in this vital matter.
Enforcement of Family Court Orders Can Including the Following:
- Child custody and visitation orders
- Child support orders
- Marital property division orders
- Alimony/spousal maintenance orders
- Restraining orders (protective orders)