Modifying Texas child custody orders

Texas law requires parents to adhere to the terms of a child custody and visitation order. Parents can face serious legal consequences if they deviate from a custody order or deny the other parent his or her rightful visitation time without prior authorization.

This is not to say that custody orders have to be permanent. When circumstances change, either parent can go to court to seek modification of the custody order.

There are a number of reasons that parents might want to modify their child custody arrangements. Perhaps the children have gotten older and their school and activities schedule conflicts with the current parenting arrangement. In other case, one parent might have a new job that requires them to travel or work different shifts. Custody modification is also often requested in situations where one spouse believes that the other is not a fit parent or is exposing the child to an unhealthy living situation.

Custody modification process

If both parents agree that custody needs to be modified, and they agree as to what the new arrangement should look like, then modifying a custody order is relatively easy.

However, if either parent disagrees, then the process will likely be quite contentious. When there is not parental consent, Texas law allows modification under three circumstances:

  • When children over age 12 ask to change their primary caretaker.
  • If the person with primary physical custody gives up care and possession for at least six months.
  • If there has been a "material and substantial" change in the circumstances of the child, either parent or any other relevant party.

Most custody modifications end up being granted because of a change in circumstances. This is a broad justification that allows the need for modification to be proven in a number of different ways. Under Texas law, a conviction or deferred adjudication for family violence or child abuse is automatically considered a material and substantial change in circumstances.

In order to succeed in a custody modification lawsuit, the parent requesting modification has to show that the proposed changes are in the best interest of the child at issue. This will be similar to the process used to prove best interest during the initial child custody case.

The custody modification process can be difficult and complicated, so it is important to get help from an experienced family law attorney. The attorney can work with you to review all of the factors present in your case to help you achieve your desired outcome.