When circumstances change, an original child custody order may no longer suit your and your child’s needs. Fortunately, you have the option to request a modification to the order. However, once a court order establishes child custody, changing it can be challenging. It is important to understand what factors may allow for a child custody modification and what steps to take to change the court order. Below, our Texas child custody attorneys discuss how to modify child custody orders in Texas.
Establishing Child Custody in Texas
Conservatorship is the term used in Texas to describe custody of a child. It establishes the legal duties and rights of each parent. There are two types of conservatorships in Texas.
The most common type of custody is joint managing conservatorship. Under this arrangement, both parents share the responsibility of raising their child. However, one parent is still the primary joint conservator or custodial parent. Both parents make most of the major decisions, but the child lives with the custodial parent.
The other type of conservatorship is sole managing conservatorship. Under sole custody, only one parent gets to make most, if not all, the major decisions. However, generally, the court believes it is best for children to have strong relationships with both parents. Therefore, the court must find good reason to allow this type of arrangement in child custody.
When Can You Change a Child Custody Order in Texas?
Either parent can file for child custody modification at any time. However, getting a modification is not simple unless both parents agree. It also becomes more complicated if you try to change the agreement before one year has passed. Whatever the reason for a change, some critical factors must be in place before any modification can be made.
The most important factor is that the change is in the child’s best interest. If not, the court is not likely to grant it. Under the Texas Family Code, the parent seeking to modify the order must also show evidence of a substantial and material change in the child or parent’s circumstances.
Below, our Texas child custody lawyers discuss reasons that may lead to child custody modification.
What Are Common Reasons to Modify a Child Custody Order in Texas?
Child custody orders are not set in stone. As time passes, situations can change. These changes may warrant a reassessment of the original order. Some common reasons to modify a custody order include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Change in circumstances. The Texas Family Code does not define what makes circumstances material and substantial. This means you may be able to prove that several situations meet the criteria for changing an existing custody agreement. Examples of changes in circumstances may include relocation, changes in employment, changes to marital or living arrangements, medical conditions, or any significant lifestyle changes.
- Child’s preference. In Texas, once a child turns 12, they can formally express their preference regarding which parent they wish to live with.
- Endangerment. If you believe that the child’s emotional or physical well-being is under threat, they can seek an immediate modification of the order. This includes scenarios where the child might be exposed to criminal activity, substance abuse, or any environment considered unsuitable for their well-being.
- Abuse or neglect. Evidence of child abuse or neglect is among the most critical reasons for order modification. The child’s safety is paramount, and any indications of abuse or neglect warrant urgent legal intervention.
- Voluntary relinquishment. Voluntary relinquishment involves the custodial parent voluntarily relinquishing the primary care and possession of the child to someone else for at least six months.
Remember, while these reasons are common, every situation is unique. However, as you can see from the examples above, a substantial change in circumstances must exist to modify an existing child custody order.
How to File a Child Custody Modification in Texas
If you wish to change a child custody order, you must file a written petition with the clerk’s office at the court. You may do so by filling out a Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship. You should file your petition with the same court that issued the original child custody agreement. However, if your child has moved, you may have to transfer the case to the county where your child resides.
The process of modifying child custody can be straightforward if both parents agree on the changes. However, it can become considerably more complex when there is disagreement.
You may have to go to trial if the other parent fights the modification. In this case, you will have to establish to the court, with evidence, that circumstances have materially changed since the original order. You must also prove that the changes you request are in the child’s best interests.
We recommend working with a Texas child custody attorney to help you seek child custody modification. At Warren & Migliaccio, we have extensive experience and success handling family law and child custody matters for our clients. Our Texas child custody attorneys have helped many individuals like you seek child custody modification under the law.
We can assist you in identifying and proving significant changes in circumstances. Establishing this is necessary for a successful modification petition. More so, we can help you make a persuasive case for modification and why the changes you seek align with your child’s best interests.
Schedule a Consultation With Our Texas Child Custody Attorneys
Are you a parent with joint custody who wants to seek sole custody? Do you wish to change specifics of an order, like where your child lives? If you have any questions about how to modify child custody orders in Texas, do not hesitate to contact a child custody lawyer from our firm.
During a consultation, we can discuss your unique situation. We are happy to answer your legal questions and discuss legal options for moving forward. Call our Texas child custody lawyers or contact us online to get started.