It would be wonderful if a court order in a divorce or SAPCR (suit affecting the parent-child relationship) could effectively deal with all the resulting issues until the children reach adulthood and all the property has been divided. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Lives evolve after people go their separate ways and sometimes what the parties agreed to or what the court ordered at the time of the divorce or SAPCR is no longer a practical or fair arrangement. In these situations the Texas Family Code provides opportunities to modify the terms of the court order to rearrange the custody, child support and the property division in certain situations. Modification suits can be complex and involved; sometimes they are even more complex than the original divorce or SAPCR. Fortunately I can help maneuver these proceedings. Learn more about how divorce attorney Adam Kielich can help with your child support modifications, custody modifications and property division modifications.
Child Support Modification in Fort Worth and Dallas
Under the Texas Family Code child support is set by a formula tied to the earnings of the parent paying child support (the obligor). Over time the obligor’s earning potential typically increasing which in turn should result in an increase in child support due to that formula. However, the Texas Family Code does not establish a mechanism to automatically increase child support as the obligor’s earnings increase. The court order establishing child support is fixed at that amount until the order is modified. In many cases the increase in earnings can be proven by review of the obligor’s paychecks. In some cases, particularly where the obligor is self-employed or has significant non-wage income, proving a change in income can be more difficult. Child support can also be reduced in a modification where the obligor has seen a reduction in income. This can help an obligor ease the financial pressure of mandatory child support and all of the penalties for non-payment.
Many people accept help increasing child support through the Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Division. This agency provides child support modification assistance for free (but generally only to increase child support). Some counties provide domestic relations offices that also help people with these modifications. Many people who accept this help find themselves waiting a very long time to see any action on their child support modifications through these agencies. It is not unusual for people to wait a year or more before they have a court hearing. You are not required to pursue modification through a government agency. You can hire a private attorney like myself to assist you. A private attorney can file for modification of child support in the family courts can typically a resolution can be reached much quicker.
Custody Modification in Tarrant County and Dallas County
Modifications of conservatorship rights and possession schedules are common forms of custody modification in Texas. These modifications generally occur due to changing circumstances of one or both parents that cause the existing custody arrangement to become unworkable. This can be caused by a new marriage, employment changes, drug or alcohol addictions and sometimes just a number of small factors come together to sour the parenting relationship. Changes with the children in extracurricular activities, friends and their relationships with the individual parents can also play a role. Sometimes the parents can work out a new agreement to follow without depending upon a judge to figure out a new custody arrangement. However, if the parents cannot come to an agreement then they must accept the present situation or file a modification suit to change the court orders establishing custody.
Modifications of custody issues tend to be complicated. In a modification the situation has often become emotionally charged and that can complicate bringing the parents together to reach an agreement. In addition to the emotional conflict, the legal standards in a modification are different from the divorce or SAPCR and that creates complications. Most divorces and SAPCRs end in an agreement or mediation between the parents and the court has little involvement in defining the custodial relationship. When the judge is involved in shaping the custodial relationship in a divorce or SAPCR the judge has a lot of help streamlining the process from the Texas Family Code. The Texas Family Code sets out a rebuttable presumption that both parents should be involved as joint managing conservators and sets out the standard possession order as a default possession schedule for the parents. Absent an agreement by the parents or a serious problem with one or both parents, most family judges can be expected to adopt the standard possession order and joint managing conservatorship. However, in a modification that goes out the window. The presumption goes away and it is likely that the current situation has made the standard possession order unworkable. That means the judge is left to decide what is in the best interest of the child or children out of the particular facts of the family situation. That can require taking a case to trial if the parties cannot reach an agreement on their own. Many modifications are resolved in mediation or informal negotiation but there is no guarantee that the parent who would not compromise before will suddenly have a change of heart.
An attorney can be an important resource in a custody modification for a number of reasons. An attorney can be a filter of reason and focus through the process to keep the emotional frustration from prolonging the process. An attorney can also use his expertise with the law and the local family courts in both the legal proceedings and with helping to shape a resolution that the courts will accept and may be a compromising fit for both parents. If you have to take your modification to trial then you definitely need representation to present the court the strongest case for your desired modification.
Property Division Modification in Texas
Under the Texas Family Code a property division awarded by a court cannot be modified although there are related mechanisms that can be used to modify certain aspects of an award or the lack of a property division in a divorce. If property from the marriage is left undivided or unawarded in a divorce then there is an opportunity to return to court to divide the undivided property only. The court will not alter the division of property already addressed in the divorce decree. A court can also issue a clarification order on an existing property division in which the court does not materially change the property division but instead clarifies the division to facilitate division by the parties. These should not be thought of as a property division modification. Rather, these mechanisms serve to resolve the original property division. These mechanisms typically are used where the terms of the divorce decree divide financial assets, business interests, or real property, but the language of the divorce decree is not specific enough to execute the division because some third party (such as a bank or broker) requires technical language regarding how these assets should be divided. Sometimes parties in a divorce hide assets which are later discovered. These assets can usually be divided in a post-decree division so long as the later legal proceedings do not change the terms of the original property division. These issues are highly technical and the law is not always clear on what a court can or cannot do with post-decree property issues. An attorney skilled in dealing with financial assets can help simplify the process.