Time does not stand still. Circumstances often change, and court orders, which are based on the initial events in a family law dispute, may need to be modified to remain fair.
If you live in Texas and have an existing family court order, you may wonder, “Can a court order be changed without going to court?” After all, nobody wants to be bogged down in legal proceedings if they can be avoided. Let’s explore the possibilities.
The Family Law Modification Process in Texas
In Texas, the process of changing a family court order is known as a modification. In general, this process must be handled through the court system, but a few exceptions may apply. I’ll dive into those possibilities to help answer your question.
First, though, the process begins with filing a motion to modify. The petitioner — the person asking for the change — must provide detailed information about why the modification is needed, such as a change in circumstances related to one of the parties or any other significant changes that necessitate a new order.
After the petitioner files a motion to modify, the other party must be served with a copy of the petition. The parties then have an opportunity to present evidence in support of their position. Once all evidence has been presented, the court will rule on the petition and issue a new order that reflects any changes.
Because court orders are legal documents, they must be modified through the court system to remain legally binding. Trying to alter significant terms in an existing court order without involving the courts can cause problems down the line, such as when one of the parties attempts to enforce the order.
Types of Family Court Orders That May Be Modified in Texas
Any family court order can be modified if there is a sufficient change in circumstances. This includes orders related to the following:
- Child custody and visitation rights
- Child support
- Spousal support payments
- Protective orders
- Other family law matters
For example, you may need to modify a child custody order if either parent relocates, if the child’s needs change, or if one of the custodial parents cannot fulfill their duties.
Non-custodial orders such as child support and spousal support orders may also need to be modified if the paying party experiences a change in income or other financial circumstances.
Additionally, protective orders may require modification if one of the parties no longer needs protection from domestic violence or if new circumstances require more stringent protective measures.
Going Through the Court System Is Not Always Necessary
Although a formal modification is the only way to legally change the terms of an existing court order in Texas, it may be possible to make informal changes without going through the court system.
For instance, a child custody order may require one parent to pick up the child from school every day at 3 p.m. But, the other parent gets a job that requires them to work until 5 p.m. It may be possible to make an informal custody agreement or parenting plan in which the other parent agrees to pick up the child from school instead.
However, this type of change is not legally binding, so you and your ex-spouse would need to trust the other to keep their word. If the terms you informally change would have significant implications if not followed, it is best to go through the court system to modify your order legally.
Before going this route, consider whether you can trust the other party to follow through on the informal agreement — and whether you can live with the consequences if they fail to do so.
For instance, if you want to gain sole custody of a child due to abuse from the other parent, you will need to go through the court system to ensure your child’s safety.
In some cases, changes that either party initially thought were necessary may not be required. For example, if either party misreads the original court order, they may discover that the existing order already addressed their proposed modification.
So, can a court order be changed without going to court? In some cases, yes — if the parties can come to a private agreement. Working with a qualified family law attorney such as myself can help determine if a formal modification is necessary or if your concerns can be addressed through other means.
Reach Out to an Experienced Family Law Attorney for Help
Modifying court orders can be a complicated undertaking, and it is best to seek the guidance of an experienced family law attorney before taking action.
From child custody modifications to spousal support modifications, an attorney can help in various ways:
- Review your situation.
- Determine the best course of action.
- Guide you through the legal process for modifications in Texas.
As a family law attorney with extensive experience under my belt, I’m here to help you identify any opportunities to modify an existing order without going to court.
I understand that some situations may make you uncomfortable with bringing your case to court — such as domestic violence, where you want to avoid seeing your abuser in court — and I am available to discuss your options.
But don’t let the possibility of returning to court keep you from making necessary changes for your family. Contact me today to schedule an appointment and discuss the details of your case.
I currently help clients with modifications in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, reach out to me for legal support.
Call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss whether your court order can be changed without going to court. I’m here to help you get the modification you need.