Court-ordered child custody arrangements are supposed to remain in effect until the child becomes a legal adult. However, under certain circumstances, child custody orders can be modified, although no such request is automatically approved.
The basis of any child custody modification is that the change is in the child's best interests, but there are other factors the court may consider.
Has there been a substantial change in your, your child's or your co-parent's circumstances since the original court order?
In Texas, a court may grant a child custody modification if there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances. For example, a modification may be approved if a parent moves to another residence, causing the visitation schedule to become a hardship for the other parent.
Other examples of substantial changes in circumstances include:
- A parent is involved in criminal activity.
- A parent now has a medical condition that prevents him or her from working or caring for the child.
- A parent remarries.
- The child's home environment has become a danger to the child's physical health or emotional development.
Has the child said that he or she wants a change?
The Texas Family Code states that the preference of a child aged 12 or older can be taken into account for purposes of a modification. The child may indicate his or her preference in the judge's chambers rather than in court.
However, any modification requested by the child must be in the child's best interests in order for the request to be approved.
Has one parent voluntarily given up custody?
A custody modification may also be granted if one parent has voluntarily relinquished care and possession of the child. In such cases, the custody must have been relinquished to another party for six months or longer. This time frame does not apply, however, to military service members who have temporarily relinquished care and possession while on deployment or while engaged in temporary military duty.
At Nix | Poet, we provide aggressive legal representation to parents seeking child custody modifications. We also represent parents whose co-parents are failing to comply with an existing divorce decree.
For more on these issues, please see our overview of child conservatorship in Texas.