If you thought your Final Order finished it once and for all, you might not be right. A divorce decree and custody agreement can may be modified. Life changes, children grow, people change jobs. Change is indeed the great constant. Once property is divided in a divorce, it does not generally get re-visited or modified. But children and alimony are another story. As circumstances change,those items may be modified. A divorce modification lawyer can help you navigate the intricacies of these modifications.
Alimony & Spousal Support Modifications
For a modification of statutory alimony or spousal support (as opposed to contractual alimony), the burden of proof is on the person wanting the modification – the paying party. A Court will look at the change in circumstances since the Order or agreement was made and make a decision about whether that change in circumstances, along with the current state of matters, should lead to a decrease or elimination of the alimony. For instance, a change like the person receiving the alimony getting a good job or the person paying it has lost their job can be enough to eliminate or decrease the alimony payments.
Child Custody Modification
Children are always growing and always changing. It seems like it’s minute to minute sometimes. Conservatorship (or custody), visitation, child support or other terms of possession of a child can be modified if the Court finds that (1) there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances of a child or conservator since the last order of the Court or agreement of the parties and (2) that the requested modification is in the child’s best interest. If your circumstances have changed significantly to warrant a child custody modification, or the other parent’s circumstances have changed dramatically (such as drug use, income change, etc.); hiring a child custody modification lawyer is imperative.
The phrase “material and substantial change in circumstances” does not have a bright-line definition. Cases can indicate what might be considered such a change, but it’s ultimately going to be what is considered to be material and substantial to the Judge of the case. For instance, if it has been four or five years since the last modification, it might be difficult for anyone to say that a material and substantial change specifically with regard to the child has not occurred. A child who has grown, developed, and changed over five years might scarcely be recognizable to someone who had not seen them since the last order was entered. There might also be other life circumstances which would validate a claim of material and substantial change. The loss of a job, the remarriage of a spouse, a required relocation, a catastrophic auto accident – the list can go. Do all of these merit the label of a material and substantial change? Maybe. Can you present evidence of more than one change in circumstances to make them cumulative? Yes, and often that’s exactly what should be done. That’s part of the strategy of litigation
Of course, if both parents agree to modify the last order of the Court, then very little involvement from the Judge is necessary. Most cases settle and the only time a Judge is needed to make a decision is when the parties can’t agree on an outcome. That does not necessarily mean a Judge will automatically rubber-stamp an agreement. A Judge might find that a possession order which switches the child back and forth between the parties every other day is not in his or her best interest. After all, that’s a lot of back and forth for anyone, especially a child forming a concept of stability. But if the agreements are reasonably thought through, a Judge will most often ratify the agreement.
Contact a Divorce Modification Attorney Today
The art of a modification action takes years to understand and some special abilities to master. It is always difficult to go back and re-open old wounds. Modifying a settled divorce or SAPCR agreement can sometimes feel like splitting a scar wide open. But sometimes it’s necessary. Jeff Anderson has more than twenty years of experience in modification actions. He doesn’t just know the law, he’s mastered it. If you have any questions about modification of a Texas divorce or SAPCR order, contact Dallas and Frisco family law attorney Jeff Anderson today.