Once a court order establishes child custody, it can be challenging to change. It’s important to understand how custody is determined, what factors may allow for a child custody modification and what steps to take to change the court order.
Establishing Child Custody
Conservatorship is the term used in Texas to describe custody of a child. This is what establishes the legal duties and rights of a parent.
There are two types of conservatorship. Joint managing conservatorship is the most common, where both parents get to share in the duties and responsibilities of raising their child. However, one parent is still the primary joint conservator (custodial parent). Both parents make most of the major decisions, but the child lives with the custodial parent.
The other type is sole managing conservatorship, in which only one parent gets to make most (if not all) the major decisions. The court must find good reason to allow this type of arrangement in child custody, since its goal is to ensure both parents are significantly involved in the child’s life.
Factors That May Lead to Changes in Child Custody
There can be many reasons to pursue a child custody modification. A more extreme circumstance would be a parent who has joint custody seeking sole custody. Examples where this may be allowed include if the other parent no longer wants to have custody of the child or evidence that the other parent has neglected or abused the child.
If the other parent has engaged in criminal activity, abused drugs or alcohol, or otherwise acted in a manner in which the child’s life is endangered, it could also lead to a child custody modification. Of course, the parent seeking sole custody would need to show evidence of these issues.
Sometimes a parent doesn’t want to change conservatorship, but does want to modify specifics of an order, like where the child lives. Whatever the reason for a change, there are some important factors that must be in place before any modification can be made.
One of the most important is that the change is in the child’s best interest. If not, the court isn’t likely to grant it. But there must have also been a substantial and material change in circumstances (as indicated in some of the previous examples).
File a Request to Modify a Child Custody Order
If you wish to modify a child custody order, the first thing you must do is file a petition with the clerk’s office at the court. Things get more complicated if one of the parents lives out of state. If the other parent agrees to the modification, it doesn’t take long for the order to be changed and you may do so by filling out an Order in Suit to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship.
But it could require going to trial if the other parent fights the modification. In this case, you’ll have to establish to the court that the changes you’re requesting are in the best interests of the child and the circumstances have changed since the original order.
Whether it’s an initial child custody order or a parent who wants to make changes, there can be numerous challenges that arise. To ensure your rights are protected, consult first with an attorney. Call Warren & Migliaccio at 888-584-9614 or contact us online if you’re in the Plano area and wish to discuss family law issues, including modifying child custody orders.