Texas courts issue child custody and support orders based on one overriding consideration: the best interests of the child. Because the child’s interest is so compelling, court orders have the force of the law behind them. If one parent is not faithfully following the terms of the order, the other party can ask the court to take some enforcement action. On the other hand, orders only serve their purpose when their terms are appropriate, practical and possible. When circumstances change, rendering one or more terms of the order inappropriate, impractical or impossible to implement, one or both parents should petition the court for a modification of the order. At Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant, LLP, our concerned family law attorneys assist parents who are struggling to manage under a court order for child custody or child support. We help parents reach agreement on necessary changes. When agreement is not possible, we advocate vigorously for or against proposed enforcement and modification actions.
Texas family courts are not set up to micromanage disputes between parents. Therefore, if you are dealing with inconveniences in your parenting plan, you simply have to do the best you can working cooperatively with the other parent for the good of your children. However, if your circumstances change “materially and substantially” after the court issues the order, you may have grounds to request a modification.
Examples of material changes include:
In many cases, it is possible to obtain a modification by agreement. If both parents see the advantages to a change in custody, they can write a proposed order and present it to the court for approval. When there is disagreement, a hearing in family court is necessary.
On the other hand, if your problem is not the order, but the other parent’s refusal to abide by its terms, you can request enforcement. For example, if a custodial parent routinely fails to make the child available for the noncustodial parent’s visitation, the noncustodial parent could request joint custody, known as joint managing conservatorship in Texas. In some cases, a parent’s persistent refusal to follow the order, which might be perceived as an attempt to alienate the child from the other parent, could prompt the court to re-write the order, altering the conservatorship to eliminate interference in the parent-child relationship.
Texas gives the courts ample powers to enforce payment of child support. Courts can:
However, these actions are only effective when a parent has sufficient funds and simply refuses to pay. The overwhelming cases of nonpayment occur because an obligor parent is unable to pay. In these circumstances, that parent should petition the court as soon as possible for a modification of child support. Until the court issues a new order, the old order remains enforceable, so amounts owed continue to accrue.
The family law attorneys at Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant, LLP represent clients in actions for modification and enforcement of existing family court orders. Call us at 940-230-2386 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. For your convenience, we have four North Texas offices, located in Denton, Flower Mound, Gainesville and Celina.
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