Final orders in a family law case are not permanent. When the circumstances of you or your family change, you can change the terms of your final divorce decree or custody order. A court order (or the portion of a divorce decree) relating to conservatorship, support, or possession of and access to a child may be modified by filing a suit for modification in the appropriate court. Any party affected by the order or the portion of the decree to be modified—usually a parent—may file a suit for modification.
The court may modify a prior order if doing so would be in the child’s best interest and one of the following applies:
- The circumstances of the child, parent, or other party affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the date of the original order or since the parties signed a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement; or
- The child is at least 12 years of age and has filed with the court, in writing, the name of the person who is the child’s preference to have the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence; or
- The conservator who has the exclusive right to designate child’s primary residence has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months.
Determinations as to whether the circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other party affected by the order have “materially and substantially changed” are necessarily made on a case-by-case basis. Examples of behavior by a parent that may constitute a material and substantial change justifying a modification of managing conservatorship include the use of illegal drugs by a party; being convicted of a crime or subjecting the child to the influence of persons involved in criminal activities; or the physical, mental, or sexual abuse of a child.
In the context of child support, a substantial increase in one parent’s income may constitute a material and substantial change justifying modification of support payments.