Modifying Child Custody

Under Texas law, divorced couples with children are obliged to follow the terms of their child custody orders. Unless they receive permission from the court, any deviation from the terms of the order can be met with serious legal consequences.

Although custody orders must be strictly followed, it does not mean that they cannot be changed. If the circumstances of either parent change significantly, he or she may ask the court to modify the order. Common circumstances that warrant a change in the custody order include (but are not limited to):

  • Job changes requiring parental relocation or extensive travel
  • The current order no longer reflects what is best for the children due to changes in circumstances
  • Unhealthy or unsafe living conditions for the children (e.g. domestic violence)

Custody modification in Bryan, Texas

In Texas, either couple may start the child custody modification process by filing a petition with the court where the original order was filed. If the child has lived in a different county for six months, the parent may request that the case be transferred to the court in the new county.

If both parents agree to the change, the modification process is quite easy. In this case, all that needs to be done is for all parties to sign a revised order and have the order approved by the court. Once it has been approved, the terms of the new order go into effect and may be enforced.

However, if the parties disagree on the terms of modification, the modification must go though the contested modification process, which can be quite contentious. Under Texas law, in contested cases, the parent wishing to modify the custody order must prove to the court:

  • That the proposed changes are in the child's best interests; and
  • There has been a material and substantial change in circumstances; or
  • The child has reached the age of 12 years and has expressed a preference for a change in primary caregiver

In all contested child modification cases, the parent wishing the change must prove that it is in the child's best interests. In deciding whether the proposed modification is in the child's best interests, the court can consider many factors including: the child's preference, emotional and physical needs, and relationship with parents.

Assuming that the child has not reached the minimum age to express a preference in caregiver, the law also requires parents to prove that a "material and substantial" change in circumstances warrant the modification. Several life events qualify as a material and substantial change. For example, a material and substantial change can occur if there is a change in the marital status, medical condition, residence, or employment of one of the parents. Additionally, if one of the parents has been convicted or put under deferred adjudication for family violence, it automatically qualifies as a material and substantial change under the law.

Contact an Austin Child Custody Lawyer

Modifying a child custody order can be a difficult process, especially if the parents cannot reach an agreement. Because of this, it is wise to have the skill and advice of an experienced family law attorney throughout the process. Contact us online or call 979-583-9200. An attorney can advise you on your case and work to secure the outcome that you desire.

From our office in Bryan, we assist clients throughout Brazos County.