The Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, P.C.The Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, P.C.
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When and how can I modify my divorce decree?

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When a couple arrives at a divorce decree -- be it through mutual agreement or through a court's determination -- it's not necessarily the final word on that couple's legal responsibilities. That's especially true with child support, as people's circumstances and employment will change over the years.

It's quite possible that where you work and how much money you make has changed from ten years ago, five years ago, or even three years ago. The Texas Family Code accounts for that reality, and makes change possible.

In Texas, child support is determined via a guideline of what the obligor makes, how many children the obligor and obligee have together, and how many other children the obligor is responsible for. An obligor is often responsible for providing child support until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later.

This calculator on the state's Office of the Attorney General site is a good tool for determining that, and factors in those who are paid hourly, a salaried amount, or are self-employed.

The decree can also be changed if the obligor can show there has been a "material and substantial change in circumstances." As the OAG website details, this typically encompasses at least one of these four items:

  • The noncustodial parent's income has either increased or decreased,
  • The noncustodial parent is legally responsible for additional children,
  • The child(ren)'s medical insurance coverage has changed, or
  • The child(ren)'s living arrangements have changed.

Modification of the decree can happen one of two ways. If the couple can come to an agreement over how the decree should be modified, they can go through a process to have the agreement made enforceable. If the parties can't come to an agreement, a motion can be filed in court, and the matter would be resolved via a hearing before a judge.

There are other reasons to modify a decree as well. If one parent moves, especially if it's outside of 100 miles from the other parent, parenting time may change as a result.

Schedules might also change. A non-custodial parent with parenting time on a Thursday night might seek to switch to Wednesday to accommodate a new job, for example. In cases like this, it's certainly easier for the parents to handle those changes via mutual agreement rather than changing the decree. The decree is typically set up to serve as the default when parents can't mutually agree to a change. But if the parents can't agree, and it's a question of changing the decree vs. losing parenting time, a motion can be filed.

We know, from our experience in filing motions to modify decrees, that items that seem small to an outsider can be incredibly important to the person seeking the modification. In those situations, we can help you with your strategy, and help you file on your behalf. We understand, after all, that even the best-crafted divorce decree may not anticipate the twists and turns that life for you, your ex, and your children may take.

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