What is a modification?

divorce-mod-contentThe issues of conservatorship and support typically arise in divorce matters. However, they may also be the subject of modification suits. In a family law case, even though a final decree of divorce is entered, the court still may retain the authority to make decisions affecting the parties and the children. This means that, under certain special circumstances, after a decree is entered, either party may have the right to request a court to enter new orders concerning conservatorship and child support, thereby modifying the prior decree or order.

Changing the amount of child support

A frequent area of modification concerns child support. If a party has been ordered to pay child support based upon a certain level of income and is later unemployed that party may request under certain circumstances that the amount of child support be reduced to reflect the reduction in income. After the party files suit, the court may consider reducing the amount of future support payable. Similarly, if a parent obtains an increase in income, the parent receiving child support might wish to modify the order by seeking an increase in child support.

A modification to child support may be included in a suit to enforce child support, also sometimes referred to as an enforcement action. If a party ordered to pay child support fails to make payment, then the party entitled to receive child support may decide to file a suit to enforce the right to receive child support. This might include a request to have the nonpaying party placed in jail as a result of the failure to pay child support. In response, the nonpaying party might attempt to have future child support payments reduced.

On occasion, the Office of the Attorney General may be involved in a child support matter. Because the Office of the Attorney General represents neither the paying nor the receiving party, each party may prefer to be represented by an attorney.

Changing conservatorship and rights regarding the child

Similarly, the circumstances of the parents or the child might change after the court enters an order. In this situation, the court has the authority to enter changes to the order under certain fact situations. Some of the items that the court might change would be the times each parent has for possession of the child, the party with whom the child will primarily reside, the location where the parties are to exchange possession of the child, and other rights affecting the child.

When one party seeks to move from the area where the child resides, a party might seek a modification. This will depend upon whether the order contains a geographic restriction. If the party having primary possession of the child seeks to move to another state, that party might need to obtain permission from the court. Similarly, the remaining parent might seek relief from the court to prevent the relocation. Other areas where a modification may be sought address the child. If there are concerns about the child’s health or education, a parent might seek an order from the court to modify a prior decision.