Last Updated on May 31, 2022 by Benson Varghese
Divorce Modification and Post-Divorce Disputes
After a divorce is finalized, you may find yourself back in court with your ex-spouse. If you agreed to a settlement, a child custody arrangement, or any other divorce-related agreement, you may need to modify or enforce the terms of your arrangement. Issues that come up after the divorce is finalized are often referred to as post-divorce disputes or post-divorce litigation.
The Texas Family Code has an entire chapter – Chapter 9 – dedicated to post-divorce modification and disputes. Here’s a look at common post-divorce disputes, answers to frequently asked questions, and some tips to help minimize post-divorce litigation.
What are common post-divorce disputes and modifications?
Post-divorce disputes can encompass many issues, but primarily revolve around:
- Custody modification
- Changes in your visitation schedule
- Drug and alcohol related issues
- Relocation (you or your former spouse moving with your child)
- Changes in spousal support
- Termination of parental rights
Can I modify a divorce-related agreement if my financial situation changes?
Maybe, depending on the type of agreement. For example, if you lose your job and you pay child support, you can ask the court for a modification of the agreement. Staying intentionally unemployed will not work, however. Alternatively, if the parent paying child support has a huge pay increase, the custodial parent may request that the court increase child support payments. Either way, you need to petition the court for modification in order to be eligible. Even if you lose your job, you cannot just stop paying support – you need court approval. You should also be aware that property division agreements are not eligible for modification. (Texas Family Code, 9.007).
Can I modify a child custody agreement in Texas?
Generally, yes. There are a number of factors that may allow you to modify the child custody agreement, including relocation, a history of drug use, or violence. It is incredibly important to understand, however, that a parent cannot withhold a child from the other parent if he or she is behind on child support. We are asked about this often. Similarly, if one spouse is withholding visitation, the other must still pay child support if initially ordered by the court.
Can a court change a property division agreement after divorce?
No. Under the Texas Family Code, a court cannot modify, alter, amend, or change property division agreements. (Texas Family Code, 9.007). The court can enforce or clarify a prior property division order, but it cannot make an entirely new agreement. If there is property discovered that was not divided in the initial property division order, either spouse can file suit to divide this specific property. (Texas Family Code, 9.201).
Can a court enforce a divorce agreement?
Absolutely. If your spouse is failing to meet obligations set up by your divorce agreement, the court can enforce your agreement and make your spouse pay child support, spousal support, or any other obligation established by your divorce agreement. If the agreement that is in need of enforcement is a property division agreement, the court can issue additional orders to enforce the property division or help implement the initial order. (Texas Family Code, 9.006). If you are looking to enforce your divorce agreement, it’s probably in your best interest to hire an attorney to assist you in the process as it can get contentious and confusing. Our Fort Worth family law attorneys will be happy to help you.
How long do I have to enforce the divorce decree?
If you are filing suit to enforce a divorce decree, you have two years from the date the divorce decree is signed or made final after an appeal (whichever is later) when it comes to personal tangible property. (Texas Family Code, 9.003a). If the property at issue was not in existence at the time the original divorce decree was issued, then you have two years from the date the property matured or when the decree was finalized, whichever date comes later. (Texas Family Code, 9.003b).
Is there a time limit for when I can ask the court to divide property post-divorce?
It depends. A court cannot change your previous property agreement. But if previously undivided property is in need of a division, then either spouse can petition for the property to be split. (Texas Family Code, Section 9.201). If that is the case, once your former spouse clearly shows that you do not have an ownership interest in the contested property and communicates this proof to you, you have two years to bring suit. (Texas Family Code, Section 9.202).
Any tips I can follow to avoid post-divorce disputes?
Yes, there are many things you can do to help minimize the likelihood of post-divorce disputes, including:
- File all documents related to property with the court, including a property division agreement, special warranty deed, etc.
- Change property titles, including a car or any other titled property.
- Contact parties in charge of handling your assets – for example, a pension fund administrator or the manager of your 401K .
- Review and modify your life insurance policies and any other payable on death benefits that name your spouse, as well as health and car insurance plans once your spouse no longer needs to be on your plan (but do not violate a court order that mandates otherwise).
- Exchange all the property you were awarded or required to give to your ex-spouse.
- Create a detailed schedule and record of visits with your kids and any child support you have paid.
- Keep records of any medical or healthcare expenses your child accrues.
- Perhaps most importantly, get a certified copy of your divorce decree. It is imperative that you keep a copy to prove you are divorced and that parties came to a specific agreement.
Contact a Fort Worth Divorce and Family Attorney
If you are looking for a post-divorce modification in north Texas, call us today at (817) 900-3220 today to set up a consultation.