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Can I Modify a Divorce Decree?

| Chris Schmiedeke |

Divorce decrees are reached through either negotiation or litigation. They are court-ordered and legal. Unfortunately, they may not be in your favor. This does not mean, however, that a divorce decree cannot be changed. Years later, you may be in a completely different place in life than you were when the order was drafted. Does this mean you should have to live with an outdated decree? Of course not, and that is why it is possible to seek a divorce decree modification.

If you are seeking guidance in changing your divorce decree due to a change in circumstances, help is available. The legal team at the Law Office of Chris Schmiedeke, P.C. is ready to listen and help you get the post-divorce modification you deserve.

What Stipulations Are in a Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree in Texas is the final court-ordered ruling that formally ends your marriage. It contains detailed outlines of who gets what in terms of property division, custody rights, child support, and potentially alimony, spousal support, spousal maintenance, and other contentious areas.

How Can I Modify My Divorce Decree?

Under Texas family law, there are two reasons you may seek a post-divorce modification. These are mutual agreement or a change of circumstances.

Mutual Agreement

Changing a divorce agreement when both parties comply is common when former spouses are still on amicable terms, or when they are able to reconcile to some degree and rebuild communications. These situations allow for compromise, and if the parties can agree on changes to the divorce agreement, they can petition the court to alter the original order. This is seen as a legally acceptable approach for changing terms and conditions of the original order.

Change of Circumstances

If one party undergoes a material or other substantial change in their life situation, they may be able to seek a modification of the original divorce decree. The party must have a significant change in these cases. For example, one party may experience a material change, such as becoming unemployed or getting a better job. The custodial parent may fall on hard times, rendering them unable to make decisions in the best interest of the child. Remarriage may also change the need for spousal support.

What Parts of a Divorce Decree Can Be Modified?

After a divorce, only certain parts of the divorce decree can be modified. This can only come about due to one of the two reasons listed above: The change must be substantial, or the change must be mutually agreed upon by both parties.

Child Custody and Visitation Modification

Post-divorce modifications may consist of changes to a custody order involving minor children. These changes can include issues of parenting time, the visitation schedule, or other child custody modifications. Child custody and visitation can be complex issues tied to conservatorship. It is always best to have a divorce lawyer’s help when seeking an alteration to the divorce decree.

If your former spouse is the custodial parent but suffers a change in circumstances that renders them mentally unstable, begins abusing drugs or alcohol, or is otherwise unable to act in the best interest of the child, the courts may revisit the original agreement or decree. Child conservatorship, visitation, and custody are always determined based on what is in the best interests of the child, and evidence will be required to prove circumstances have changed significantly.

Spousal Support Modification

A significant material change, such as unemployment or remarriage, may give reason to revisit alimony, spousal support, or spousal maintenance payments. Significant financial changes for better or worse can be considered.

Remember, spousal support is intended to allow the spouse receiving support to maintain their standard of living. It should not, however, put an undue burden on the spouse paying the support. If it does because your situation has changed, a family law attorney can help you seek a decree modification to change the amount you must pay.

Child Support Modification

Child support guidelines allow modification of a child support order such as child support payments. Similar to spousal support, child support modification requires a significant material change, such as unemployment or improved employment.

Other aspects of your divorce case, such as property division, cannot be modified regardless of any material or significant changes. If you and your ex-spouse agree on the exchange of property, other avenues besides a divorce modification may be available. Your family law attorney may be able to help you in these areas.

Who Can File for a Modification of a Divorce Decree?

Under the Texas Family Code, any person who has court-ordered rights in terms of the children in question from the original final divorce decree can bring up a case for the modification of custody. Evidence will be required to prove the change of circumstance, and that will fall to the person who filed for the modification.

If you are seeking modification of your divorce settlement, it is always best to have a dedicated, experienced, and knowledgeable family law attorney in your corner. The modification process can be complex, and the right divorce attorney can guide you through it while protecting your rights. Our Dallas law firm is ready to help you with your divorce settlement agreement modification. Call us at 214-643-8904 or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation today.

Can You File a Temporary Order for Custody?

Yes! You can file a temporary or emergency order for custody under Texas Family Code Chapter 156.006. Temporary orders are issued while a suit for modification is pending. The court may not, however, change who has exclusive rights to determine the child’s primary residence unless the temporary order is in the best interests of the child. This requires several factors to be in play:

  • The child’s present circumstances threaten their physical or mental well-being.
  • The person with conservatorship has voluntarily relinquished their primary care for over six months.
  • The child is older than 12 and has expressed a wish in chambers to change custodial parents.

In the latter case, the alteration in custody must still be in the child’s best interests as determined by the courts.

Emergency custody orders require an affidavit stating this best interest and facts supporting the allegation that such an emergency order is necessary. In addition, if a conservator has temporarily relinquished primary care due to military deployment, mobilization, or other temporary military duty, an emergency order is not usually issued (barring other extreme circumstances).

Why Having an Attorney Is Best for Issues Like This

Texas divorce cases of any type can get contentious and complicated very quickly. What, at first, seems like an easy agreement can quickly hit a sticking point that devolves into arguments that tear families apart. The right divorce attorney can help smooth over the process of a divorce modification while still protecting your rights.

We can prove that you have the material or significant changes to back up the need for a new agreement, whether it involves reduced payments for spousal support, a change in child support payments, an adjustment in parenting time, or even an emergency custody order to protect your child when your ex-spouse becomes unable to properly care for them. Divorce modifications are about protecting you and your child when things get unreasonably difficult or dangerous.

As a family law firm, we are ready to gather all the evidence, move quickly, and help you avoid mistakes like missing critical deadlines, failing to file the proper paperwork, or accidentally doing something that can be perceived as contempt of court. In short, having a family law attorney in your corner gives you the best shot at gaining the modification to your final divorce decree promptly and with minimal stress.

Need a Modification Post-Divorce?

The law firm of Chris Schmiedeke, P.C. is all about divorce simplified. We care very deeply for our attorney-client relationships and are here to make the process as simple as possible while helping you with issues involving children and support.

We will provide simple, straightforward answers whenever possible, and we have a track record of success. We will not surprise you with hidden disclaimers or fine print. We want nothing more than to be a compassionate ear and a dedicated ally when you need one most. We also offer eBooks and eCourses, educational videos, and other resources to help you understand the process and move forward with confidence.

If you need help with a post-divorce decree modification, we are here to help. Call the Law Office of Chris Schmiedeke at 214-643-8904 or fill out our simple online contact form today for a free consultation with a member of our family law team.

Chris Schmiedeke


I was born in Dallas and spent the majority of my life here. I moved to Denver in the middle of the first grade and moved back to Plano in the middle of the eleventh grade. I graduated from Plano Senior High in 1984 and then attended Richland College and the University of North Texas where a received a Bachelor of Business Administration. From there I attended the Texas Tech University School of Law and was licensed to practice law in May of 1993. 

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