Modifications to Child Custody
& Child Support Orders
The amount a noncustodial parent pays for child support in Texas is calculated using a specific formula. If there has been no change to a child support order for at least three years and applying the formula guidelines now would result in a 20% change or vary by $100 or more, either parent may ask the court to modify the order. A parent may also petition the court if there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances.
The following qualify as material and substantial change:
- An increase or decrease in the noncustodial parent’s income
- The noncustodial parent has become financially responsible for additional children
- Medical insurance for the child has changed
Child custody, now referred to as “conservatorship” in Texas, involves both managing conservatorship (legal custody) and possessory conservatorship (physical custody). Filing a Petition to Modify a Parent-Child Relationship with the court requires:
- The child’s circumstances to have been altered due to material change in circumstances of one or both parents
- A child of 12 years of age or older to have expressed a wish to change which parent they live with
- The parent with possessory conservatorship to have voluntarily relinquished care to the other parent for six months or longer
Where custody matters are concerned, the court always rules in the best interests of the child. If changes in circumstances have also changed what arrangements are in the best interests of the child, the court may choose to modify an existing order.
Modifications to Spousal Support
Spousal support (or “alimony”) one spouse pays to another following divorce may also be modified by the court if the petitioner demonstrates a material change in circumstances. Because any alimony award is based on the recipient’s need for support and the other spouse’s ability to pay it, substantial changes in the paying spouse’s income would qualify as material and substantial change. Other material changes might include the receiving spouse’s ability to be self-supporting, or changes in the spouse’s physical or mental condition.
How to Petition the Court to Modify an Order
Either party affected by material and substantial change in circumstances may file a petition with the court to modify an existing order, pursuant to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. As with the divorce petition, the other party must be served a copy of the modification petition so they can respond formally.
If a party has failed to honor court-ordered support orders, the other party may file a contempt lawsuit with the court to request enforcement of the order.
How a Family Law Firm Can Help
Family court orders are serious obligations, but when life changes the circumstances that applied when those orders were made, you can ask the court to modify those orders accordingly. Filing a petition with the court to have an order modified or asking the court to enforce an order is best handled by an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney can help you document evidence of material and substantial change and advocate for you in court.