When a Texas couple divorces with young children, the divorce judgment will include a child support order. Courts order support amounts based on legal guidelines as well as their assessment of the children’s best interests.

It can happen that, over time, circumstances will change in the years following the divorce, and you may want to look into obtaining a modification of the original order. It is important to do this correctly, as mistakes can lead to serious practical and legal problems.

You need an official court order reflecting the change

The first thing you need to know is that any changes to support arrangements must mean a new court order. No matter how well the exes get along, an informal agreement will not be valid and can raise serious issues down the road. Changing payment amounts based on an informal agreement will violate the original court order and can result in penalties.

If the two of you do agree on the changes you want to make, you can submit your proposal to the court and request a new order. If you do not agree, the requesting parent may have a tougher road to convincing the court to modify the order.

When courts will consider modification

One set of circumstances under which Texas courts will typically agree to change an order is when the order currently in place did not undergo any adjustments in the past three years. Additionally, the support guidelines would change the amounts by at least 20 percent or by a minimum of $100.

Changing circumstances

Courts may also modify a support order based on a material change in the parents’ or the children’s circumstances. Common examples include a parent losing a job or becoming disabled, the paying parent gaining a substantial increase in income, or the child developing new medical or educational needs. A modification may also be appropriate if the child’s health insurance coverage changes or if the child’s living arrangements change substantially. Determining whether circumstances have changed sufficiently to warrant a support modification is a fact-intensive inquiry, which means courts look at every situation individually rather than applying a broad rule.