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What do judges look at for modifications?

Many people may worry their divorce decrees are set in stone. Yours may have seemed fine when you and your former spouse finalized it. But you may want to revisit it as circumstances change. If they have, it’s important to know what judges consider when ruling on proposed modifications.

Child support

In Texas, you may have to wait three years after your divorce to modify your child support order. The exception to this rule is if the proposed difference is more than a 20% or $100 change from your current payment. In either case, a judge will determine whether a material and substantial change in circumstances warrants the modification. These include:

  • Any increase or decrease in your income
  • Any responsibility you have for additional children
  • Any change in your children’s living situation
  • Any change in your children’s insurance coverage


If you want to modify your custody plan, you will need to wait at least one year after your current plan went into effect to do so. Keep in mind, too, that judges often consider the original agreement a reflection of your children’s best interests. But they may give weight to your petition if these have changed. A judge will weigh four factors when ruling on a custody modification, namely:

  • If you, your children or former spouse have experienced material and substantial changes in circumstances
  • If your children tell the judge which parent they want to live with (provided they are at least 12 years old)
  • If your children have been in the custody of someone besides their primary conservator for six months or more
  • If child abuse or family violence has occurred

Spousal support

Not all Texas divorces include spousal support payments. Yet, you may have been ordered to provide maintenance to your former spouse. Or, you may have agreed to. If you petition to modify it, a judge will weigh whether a significant change in your income or ability to work makes this change necessary. Furthermore, they may consider whether your spouse began cohabiting with a new partner who they have not married. You will need to prove to the judge, though, that your former spouse now lives in such an arrangement.

Modifying your support and custody orders may seem difficult. Yet, by understanding what factors Texas judges consider, you can petition from a position of strength. An attorney with family law experience can help you make your case.

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