What Terms in a Divorce Decree Can be Modified?

A court can modify terms of a Divorce Decree for Conservatorship (custody), possession and access (visitation) and child support (including an order for health care coverage).

Modification of Conservatorship or Possession and Access

The court may modify an order if the modification is in the best interest of the child and:

1. The circumstances of the child, a conservator or other party affected by the order have “materially and substantially changed” (legal terms of art) since the earlier of the date (a.) the order was rendered or (b.) the mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement was signed; or

2. The child is at least 12 years old and has expressed to the judge in chambers the person who the child would like to live with; or

3. The conservator who has the right to designate the primary residence of the child has voluntarily relinquished the child to another person for at least 6 months.

Modification of Child Support (Increase or Decrease)

A court can also modify child support, including an order for health care coverage, as follows:

1. The circumstances of the child, a conservator or other party affected by the order have “materially and substantially changed” (legal terms of art) since the earlier of the date a. the order was rendered or b. the mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement was signed; or

2. If it has been three years since the order was rendered or last modified and the monthly child support obligation differs by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded under the current child support guidelines.

The three year rule is not available to parties who originally agreed to a child support obligation if that amount is different from the amount that would have been awarded under the child support guidelines when the order as rendered; or

3. If a person has had physical possession of a child for at least six months.

Modifications can be done by agreement of the parties, subject to the court’s approval of the agreement.

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