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Can I Change the Terms of A Prior Decree or Court Order that Set Custody, Visitation, and Child Support?

Boyd Family Law April 12, 2023

In Texas, the courts presume a final decree is the final word about cases. However, it is sometimes possible to modify a prior divorce decree through a legal process known as a modification suit. The process of modifying a prior divorce decree may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case, but in general, the following steps may be involved:

  1. Identify the reason for the modification: To modify a divorce decree, there must be a material and substantial change in circumstances of a parent or the child that would warrant a modification and if the requested modification would be in the child’s best interest. For example, a modification may be sought due to a change in employment or income, a relocation, or a significant change in the child's needs or circumstances.

  1. The timing of filing is important if seeking to modify primary custody or a geographical restriction if filed within the first year after the prior order.

  1. Once you have identified the reason for the modification, you must file a modification suit with the court that issued the original divorce decree. This suit must include a petition outlining the specific changes you are seeking and the reasons why.

  1. If you are asking for a temporary hearing so your case can be heard quickly, and if you are seeking to change primary custody or a geographical restriction, you must file an Affidavit with your Petition to show that unless the prior order is modified, the children will suffer significant impairment of their emotional or physical conditions. Otherwise, you will have to wait for a final trial setting.

  1. Serve the other party: Once the modification suit has been filed, you must serve the other party with a copy of the petition and a citation to appear in court.

  1. Attend a hearing: After the other party has been served, a hearing will be scheduled to consider the modification. At this hearing, both parties will have the opportunity to present evidence and arguments in support of their positions.

  1. Obtain a modified order: If the court determines that a modification is warranted, a new order will be issued that reflects the changes requested. This new order will supersede the original divorce decree.

It is important to note that the process of modifying a divorce decree can be complex and may require the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.

I can help you understand the legal process, gather evidence, and present your case effectively in court.