Typically, states do not encourage modification of a divorce judgment. Divorcing spouses invest significant time -- and often, attorney fees -- in negotiating or litigating the terms of a divorce. However, a "final" judgment of divorce is not always final. In Texas, parties can move to modify a divorce by mutual agreement or by a showing of changed circumstances or fraud.
Sometimes parties to a divorce view matters differently with the passage of time. If former spouses make a mutual decision to alter the terms of a divorce judgment, a Texas court may adopt a modified judgment incorporating the changes. Court agreement is more likely if the terms in question involve only the two parties rather than third parties, such as creditors.
A party to a completed Texas divorce can request modification of the divorce order upon a showing of changed circumstances. Generally, courts modify ongoing obligations more readily than property division. For example, a Texas court may modify a spousal maintenance order upon a showing that either party's circumstances have changed, materially and substantially. Likewise, a court may modify the divorce order to terminate spousal maintenance if the spouse receiving maintenance lives permanently with a new partner.
Texas law allows modifications in a child custody order upon a showing of material and substantial change in a parent's circumstance if the modification is shown to be in the best interests of the child. Courts have ruled that remarriage, a disabling medical condition, criminal acts or change of residence are sufficient cause to consider modification.
Texas law favors stability in a child's environment after a divorce. Because of this, a party can more easily modify a child support decree than a custody order since the outcome is less likely to disrupt the child's environment. The party asking for modification must show proof of a material and substantial change in the circumstances of either the child or a parent. Courts accept proof of a substantial increase or decrease in one parent's income or a substantial increase in a child's expenses.
Proof of fraud is grounds for modifying a divorce in Texas, as in most states. A party seeking to set aside or modify a divorce decree on the grounds of fraud must establish all the traditional elements of fraud. These include proof the other party made a false representation he knew to be false, intended his spouse to rely on the statement and the spouse did, in fact, rely on the statement to her detriment.