Once a Divorce Decree or other Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (sometimes referred to as a “SAPCR” – pronounced [Sap – Sur]) becomes final, then the parties must file a new lawsuit if they desire to change the prior order. The modification is usually filed into the same case as the original action, although it is generally considered to be a new lawsuit. A typical modification lawsuit is with respect to matters concerning the children such as child support, conservatorship (custody), the powers of conservatorship (such as who chooses where the child goes to school or who chooses primary residence), visitation, and sometimes other ancillary matters. Although modification lawsuits are sometimes referred to as a “motion” to modify, they are not really motions because, under modern procedures, they are treated as a new lawsuit. The formal name for the modification is usually “Petition to Modify the Parent Child Relationship.”
Like any other lawsuit, the modification must be filed and served upon the other party, together with a Citation. If no answer is filed, then a default can be taken. Like a divorce case, the party filing the Petition can also request a temporary orders hearing to request interim orders prior to the final trial date. Because the Order to be modified was based upon the circumstances then existing at the time the Order was entered, the Court generally requires that the Movant prove a “material and substantial” change in circumstances, prior to granting a modification of the Order.
If you have a legal issue related to Modifications in a Family Law context, please contact Cindy Veidt for an appointment to discuss.