When can Texas parents request changes to child custody or visitation?

Under Texas law, parents or children who wish to revise custody or visitation orders must first prove that their situation meets specific criteria.

It's not uncommon for divorced spouses in San Antonio to face the ongoing challenge of sharing parental responsibilities with their former partners. According to The San Antonio-Express News, in 2012, about 45 percent of couples who divorced in Texas had children. For many parents in this position, agreeing to a parenting plan may be challenging, and crafting one that won't require adjusting over time may be even more difficult.

Fortunately, under Texas law, parents have the right to request changes to existing custody and parenting time arrangements. However, they must show that they meet specific criteria in order to qualify for these modifications.

Changing circumstances

Per the Texas Family Code, significant changes in the circumstances of either parent or the child can provide grounds for modifications to a parenting plan or custody order. Such changes might include:

  • A relocation on the part of either parent
  • The remarriage of one parent
  • Substantial changes in either parent's health

A family law court may also find that modifications are justified if a parent is convicted of child abuse, domestic violence or another serious criminal offense.

Relinquishing custody

The Texas Family Code also permits modifications to standing child custody arrangements if the custodial parent grants another person custody and visitation for a period of at least six months. However, there is an exception for parents who do so due to military service. Military deployment, mobilization and temporary duty cannot independently serve as grounds for permanent modifications to child custody or visitation orders.

Child's request

In Texas, a child who is at least 12 years old has the right to request changes to an existing custody or visitation order. A child's interest in modifications does not guarantee that the proposed changes will be made, however. A family law judge still must evaluate whether the changes are in the best interests of the child.

Timing issues

Finally, parents who wish to modify a custody order within one year of its creation must demonstrate that their case meets one of three criteria. Parents can prove that the current arrangement may put the child in danger or adversely affect the child's emotional development. Alternately, parents may show that the custodial parent willingly relinquished custody or that the custodial parent is in favor of the modifications.

Making the modifications

If both parents agree to a change to custody or visitation, they can submit the proposed modification to a family law judge for approval. However, if parents don't agree, the modification is contested. In this case, the parent requesting the changes is tasked with proving that those changes are in the best interests of the child.

Meeting this standard can be challenging, especially for parents who aren't familiar with the state's laws on child custody and visitation. As a result, parents who face contested modifications in Texas may benefit from seeking legal advice. An attorney may be able to help a parent understand the relevant laws and present his or her case more effectively.