Can child custody orders be modified in Texas?

If your circumstances have changed, it is possible to modify a child custody order.

If you are divorced and have children, you know that the custody order determines who has custody of the children. However, you may believe that the order is set in stone, even if it no longer is feasible. Fortunately, this is not the case in Texas, as many of life's events such as job relocation can serve as the basis to ask a court to modify a child custody order. Additionally, orders may be changed if there are other changes in circumstances where the current order no longer reflects the child's best interests.

When orders may be modified

Under Texas law, either parent may file a petition seeking child custody modification anytime. The petition must be filed in the court that granted the divorce, unless the child has moved. If this has happened, the case may be transferred to the court in the child's new county.

Depending on whether there is agreement between the parties, the modification process can be quite swift. If both parents agree that there is a need to modify the order, all that needs to be done is to submit a proposed custody order reflecting the changes to the court. The court will then review the modification and approve it in most cases. Once the order has been approved, it becomes legally enforceable.

In cases where the parents do not agree on the need to modify the order, the modification process is lengthier, as both parents need to go in front of a judge to modify the order. Under the law, the parent that wishes to modify the order must demonstrate that:

• The child is 12 years old and wishes to change the primary caregiver; or

• There has been a change in circumstances that is material and substantial; and

• The proposed changes to the order would serve the child's best interests.

If the child is under 12 years old or does not wish to change the primary caregiver, the order cannot be modified unless the change in circumstances has been material and substantial. Courts in Texas have interpreted this requirement to include:

• Changes in marital status of the parents

• Job relocations

• Unemployment

• Medical conditions

• Abuse or neglect of the child by either parent

• Substance abuse

In all cases, the court will not modify the custody order unless the changes reflect the best interests of the child. In determining whether the proposed order meets this standard, courts consider many factors such as the child's needs, wishes (if he or she is old enough to express them) and relationship to each parent.

Consult an attorney

If your circumstances have changed to the point where the child custody order no longer fits your situation, consult an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can assist you with obtaining a new order that would be a better fit for the new realities of your life.

Keywords: child custody modification, child custody