What are Modifications?

One of the questions I get asked most often is what happens if the other parent changes jobs or gets a raise? One of their concerns as a custodial parent is that of child support to help offset the costs of raising children. Other situations arise where one or the other parent may have become homeless or are using of illegal drugs or abuse of prescription drugs. These parents are concerned because the court case is over so they feel there is nobody there to help them. That is not always the case.

A Court Order can become final if, after the statutory period has expired there has been no appeal filed or motions for new trial. But that does not mean the Order cannot be modified. Modifications are Court proceedings within the same case to modify or change the existing final order.

Modification for Custody or Visitation


Section 156.101 of the Texas Family Code sets forth the grounds for modifying conservatorship or possession and access. A parent can file for a modification if:

  • There has been a material and substantial change in circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other party since (a) the date of the order; or (b) the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based; or
  • the child is at least 12 years of age and wishes to live with the other parent; or
  • a parent voluntarily relinquishes the primary care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months.

What constitutes a material and substantial change? There are no set rules, but most Texas Courts have interpreted material and substantial change to include such things as:

  • Changes in marital status of the parents
  • Job relocation
  • Unemployment
  • Medical conditions
  • Abuse or neglect of the children
  • Substance abuse

Regardless of the circumstances, a Court will not order a modification if the change is not in the best interest of the child.


Modification for Child Support


Back to the question of what happens if the person paying child support is making more money in the future? An order can be modified for a change in the child support if:

  • There has been a material and substantial change in circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other party since (a) the date of the order; or (b) the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based; or
  • it has been three years since the order was rendered or last modified and the monthly amount of the child support award under the order differs by either 20% or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines.

This means that if the non-custodial parent gets a raise and the child support would only change by a few dollars, then the Court will not allow a modification.


What if I am the Non-Custodial Parent


As the parent obligated to pay child support, you should make every effort to stay current on your payments. If something does happen that you fall behind, notify the child support office. Although child support does not stop because you lose your job or are only working part-time, you should still make every effort to pay some amount every time child support is due. The last thing you should do is stop paying child support altogether.

If you are incarcerated, you will need to hire an attorney to file for a modification to stop your child support. The burden is on you to modify based on a change of circumstances, not the custodial parent, not the State, and not the OAG.

If you become unemployed due to a disability, it is important to notify the OAG and file for a modification. Several factors are used to calculate child support and unemployment or underemployment does not change your child support obligation.

If you are in need of a possible modification, or would just like to discuss your rights, please Contact Our Office to schedule a consultation. We are here for you.

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