Amending a Divorce Decree When Circumstances Change
When you get divorced in Texas, and you have minor children, part of the final order establishes which parent has managing conservatorship (custody), how and when the non-custodial parent will have access (visitation), and how much child support will be paid. Child support is based on a number of factors, including the income and earning capacity of the parents, as well as any special needs of the children. Circumstances change, though—a parent may become unable to work or may lose a job. A child’s needs may change dramatically. For those reasons, child support orders are not set in stone. However, you must take specific steps to modify an existing child support order.
In Texas, when a divorce involves minor children, an SAPCR (Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship) is automatically attached as part of the filing. An SAPCR addresses all legal issues involving interactions between the parents and their minor children, such as custody (conservatorship), visitation (access), child support and any other issues that might impact the best interests of the child. An SAPCR is similarly required in order to modify an existing child support order.
The Standard for Changes to Child Support
Before a court will amend a child support order, you must show one of two situations has occurred:
- there has been a material and substantial change in the circumstances of the child, the conservator (custodial parent), or the non-custodial parent; or
- the child support order has not been amended in at least three years, and a new support order, if granted, would result in a change of at least 20% or $100 (provided the amount was calculated under Texas guidelines and was not a different amount agreed to by the parties).
Texas law does not define what constitutes a “material and substantial” change, but this has generally been defined to include:
- a change in the income of the party paying support,
- a change in the medical insurance coverage for minor children,
- a change in the custody/living arrangements of the child, or
- the addition of other minor children for whom the paying parent has legal responsibility.
Amending a Child Support Order in Texas
Parents cannot modify a child support order in Texas through an informal agreement. Because Texas courts give top priority to the best interests of minor children, the ways a child support order can be modified are limited:
- You can set up an in-office negotiation, also known as a “Child Support Review.”
- You can schedule a court hearing to determine whether support should be changed.
To request a review, you must petition the court. That can be done online, or you may submit your request in writing to the: Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division
P.O. Box 12017
Austin, Texas 78711-2017
Contact the Divorce and Family Law Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an experienced Texas divorce and family law attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at 844-402-2992. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.