Judy Branham
Executive Director

Monday - Friday
8:00 am to 4:30 pm

500 E. San Antonio
Suite LL-108
El Paso, Texas 79901
Phone (915) 834-8200
Fax (915) 834-8299

Management Action Plan

Domestic Relations Office

  • Modifying a Court Order
  • Under certain circumstances a family court order may be changed or "modified." Only provisions of a court order that pertain to children may be modified; provisions that pertain to property division may not ever be modified. The most common provisions to be modified involve custody, child support and visitation. This flyer is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to modification procedures, but merely to answer a few FAQs regarding modification.
  • General Modification Procedures
  • 1. A modification of a court order is a lawsuit like a divorce or paternity suit. The person requesting a modification must file a petition to modify and serve the other person or persons involved with a copy of the petition as well as a document called a citation. Generally, a court cannot modify a previous court or involved in the case has been formally served with citation in the manner provided for by Texas law. A person requesting a modification (the "Petitioner") may either pay the El Paso County Sheriff's Department or a private process server to serve the other person (the "Respondent").
  • 2. A hearing must be obtained from the court that has jurisdiction over the case. In El Paso County there are several district judges that hear family law cases. Each of these judges has an associate judge assigned to their court. The individual courts have different methods for determining which judge will hear a case. All of the family law district courts require a document called a "case screening instrument" to be filed along with the initial papers in any family law matter. For more specific information on setting hearings, you will need to attend the FLIC class on Modifying your Family Law Court Order (change name).
  • 3. Even if the parents are in agreement the modification is not effective until a judge signs a written court order. Each court has a particular day and time for hearing uncontested cases. You will need to check with the court your case is assigned to for exact dates and times. An "uncontested " case is one where a) both parties have signed the proposed order, b) the Respondent has signed a waiver of citation, or c) the Respondent was served, but failed to file a written answer within the appropriate time period.
  • Modifying Child Support
  • 1. Essentially, a court may change the amount of child support to be paid if: a) the circumstances of the child or any other person affected by the order have changed substantially since the last court order for child support or b) it has been three (3) years since the last court order for child support, and the amount of child support previously ordered is at least 20% or $100 (whichever is less) different from the amount of child support due under the child support guidelines(for more information about child support guidelines, see the Family Law Information Center child support flyer.
  • 2. Some common examples of substantial changes in circumstances include: a) the payor has lost his/her job since the last child support order; b) the payor now earns substantially more money than he/she did at the time of the last child support order; c) the child has become disabled since the last child support order.
  • 3. One warning: If the court believes that the payor's actual income is significantly less than what he or she could earn, because they are intentionally unemployed or underemployed the court may calculate child support based upon the payor's earning potential.
  • Modifying Visitation
  • 1. The court may change a parents' time of possession of a child if the court believes it would be in the child's best interest, and the circumstances of the child, a parent or other person affected by the order have changed substantially since the last order setting times of possession.
  • 2. A court may change many aspects regarding parents' possession of the children such as a) where the children will be exchanged, b) the times for exchanging the children, and c) travel expenses if the parents do not live in the same community. The court has a great deal of power, and can issue many orders including telling the parents not to argue in front of the child or speak badly of the other parent in front of the child.
  • Modifying Custody
  • A custody fight is usually an extremely lengthy, complicated, and expensive battle. The rules for changing custody are much too complicated to even summarize here, since so much depends on what the court ordered previously (joint custody vs. sole/possessory custody arrangements, for instance) and the age of the child. If you are in a custody battle you really need to consult an attorney.
  • This flyer provides only very basic information about this topic. If you wish to obtain more information concerning modifications of a court order, the Family Law Information Center offers classes on many Family law topics. For more information on these classes you may contact us at: 915-834-8203 or 915-834-8200 ext. 4039.