By: Leslie Barrows
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The Child Custody Modification Process in Texas
Call Leslie Barrows at the Barrows Firm in Southlake for Child Custody Modification (817) 481-1583
Over time things can change and we can become dissatisfied with a Texas divorce decree. During a divorce, parents work towards a co-parenting situation that fosters the best interests of the children involved in custody and visitation determinations. The custody and visitation schedule might work wonderfully for many years until it becomes outdated or things change in the family and the child custody and visitation schedules might not work as well. It doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault, rather the need for modification may likely be tied to the needs of growing kids with demanding schedules.
Remember that your court-ordered parenting plan and visitation schedule is there as a backup when co-parents cannot agree. In many families with a Standard or Expanded Standard Possession Schedule, parents can adjust and trade time back and forth as necessary and when schedules and life happen. That said, when parents cannot get on the same page, they can fall back on their decree and orders.
If the currently ordered possession schedule no longer works, a modification can address the problems. Likewise, if one of the parents is having serious difficulties as a conservator, their parental rights and duties can be modified to preserve the health, safety, well-being and overall best interests of the children involved.
Take a Moment to Listen to Our Latest Texas Divorce Lawyer Podcast – Episode 5: What Does A Divorce Case Look Like in Texas
Attorney Leslie Barrows and her team of family lawyers at the Barrows Firm are ready to help you and your family. Attorney Amanda Roark is another fine divorce lawyer who works on Barrows Firm cases along with Leslie Barrows. To schedule a consultation to learn your rights and options, call the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583.
What is the Process for Child Custody Modification Cases in Texas?
Child custody is a general term and in Texas, this refers to conservatorship (parental rights and duties), possession and access of the child, and which parent has the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence. A court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction may modify an order for the conservatorship, support, or possession of and access to a child.
The parent, or person with standing to bring a suit under the Texas Family Code, may file the suit for child custody modification with the original court issuing the divorce decree, or order in a suit affecting a parent-child relationship. The standard rules of Texas Civil Procedure apply to a suit for modification, so the process is like the original suit for divorce.
You may have a similar discovery process, temporary orders, mediation, and other settlement negotiation procedures. To learn more details about the process for a child custody modification, please refer to our recent article, What is the Divorce Process in Texas?
What Are the Grounds Necessary for a Child Custody Modification in Texas?
A material and substantial change in circumstances must be established in order to qualify for a child custody modification. The material and substantial change must occur after the date the current order was signed. Children at the age of 12 or older can talk to the judge in chambers when a motion is filed as part of a child custody modification case. Note that the judge is not required to agree with or rule in favor of the child’s wishes, and the judge can make his or her independent decision based on the best interests of the child.
Another ground for a child custody modification is the allegation that the parent who was appointed as the conservator with the exclusive right to determine the residence of the child, has, in fact, relinquished their title and right as the primary parent to the other parent for at least six months. When that happens, the non-primary parent can file a child custody modification case, asking the judge to appoint them as the conservator parent with the primary right to determine the residence of the child.
Note that military service and deployment does not apply in a case where the other parent claims the primary parent has voluntarily relinquished their rights. In fact, there are specific rules for parents, conservatorship, and possession and access in the Texas Family Code.
Psychology Today offers a helpful article about child custody disputes: Three Rules for Negotiating Child Custody, Three things parents fighting over custody should know.
Modification of the Exclusive Right to Determine the Primary Residence of a Child Within One Year of the Order
The Texas Family Code allows for child custody modification within one year of the last custody order entered by the court of original jurisdiction, or the date the parties sign a mediated settlement agreement on which the order is based. Attached to the suit to modify, the party seeking the modification is required to attach an affidavit supporting the facts alleged in the suit for modification and at least one of the following must be alleged:
- The child’s present environment is a danger to their physical health or may significantly impair the child’s emotional development;
- The parent or person with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child is the person asking for the child custody modification and that requested modification is in the best interest of the child; or
- The person or parent with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child for at least six months and that the modification is in the best interests of the child.
When you meet with your child custody modification attorney at the Barrows Firm in Southlake, you and your attorney can discuss what happened and what strategy is most likely to solve conflicts and high-stakes child custody issues.
Another interesting Psychology Today article: Shared Physical Custody After Divorce: “Fair” to Children? Everyone likes shared custody, but there are emotional drawbacks for children.
Can You Change Custody, Visitation, or Child Support with an Agreed Modification?
Yes, you can modify child custody, conservatorship, support, and possession and access through agreements with the other parent, to settle your issues and modify your parenting plan outside of court. The procedure is still required but when you agree with the other parent or person with custody, the entire case moves along much quicker and saves time and money for all.