How Do You Amend a Divorce Order? What Must You Show?
Suppose you make it through the divorce process and have custody, visitation, and support agreements in place… and they’re working. But then, without notice, you’re offered a job in another part of the state or across the country… or your ex has changes at work that require you to assume custody more often. You may need to change the terms of custody, support, and visitation. Can you do that? If so, what must you show to persuade the court to amend its order?
You Have the Right to Ask the Court to Modify an Existing Divorce Decree
Though it can be a long and complicated process, either party to a divorce in Texas can petition the court to change the terms of a signed divorce order. As a general rule, there are three ways to amend an existing divorce decree:
- Reach an informal arrangement with your ex – While you can always make informal adjustments to custody and visitation agreements, or even agree to modify support payments, those changes are not legally enforceable without the approval of the court. If you agree to changes that you want to make permanent, you should have your lawyer prepare and file a motion to modify the existing divorce judgment. Once the court signs the order, those changes become legally enforceable.
- Request a change pursuant to changes in the Texas child support guidelines – If state formulas for calculating payments change, a party can ask the court to issue a new support order, provided it has been at least three years since the support order was last amended and the change in the amount paid will be more than 20% or $100 per month.
- Demonstrate a substantial and material change of circumstances – Most often, these changes affect child custody, child support, and spousal support:
- Alimony/spousal support – The paying spouse may have grounds for modification under a number of scenarios, including when the receiving spouse remarries or begins to cohabitate with another person, when the receiving spouse has a substantial increase in income or assets, or when the paying spouse has a change in employment with a significant reduction in income.
- Child support – As a general rule, periodic changes in a paying party’s income will not warrant a change in a child support order. However, other circumstances might, including the relocation of the child from the custodial spouse’s home or changes in medical needs or childcare costs.
- Child custody and visitation – The court will make changes in custody (managing conservatorship) and visitation (access) arrangements only when doing so is in the best interests of the minor child. In addition, the courts in Texas generally require one of the following:
- The child will be physically or emotionally at risk if custody and visitation remain unchanged;
- The parent who has been granted custody has given up that right for a minimum of six months; or
- The child is at least 12 years old and has expressed a preference for living with the noncustodial parent. (The court will still make a determination of whether actually changing custody is in the child’s best interests.)
Contact the Proven 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 aggressive and knowledgeable divorce and family lawyer, contact us by email or call our offices at 844-402-2992. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.