Child custody orders in Texas are designed to protect the best interests of a child. As a result, there may be times when a judge decides to modify an existing arrangement due to a change in circumstances.
Whether you’re considering modifying a child custody order or are concerned about the other parent potentially modifying the original order, it can be helpful to understand the reasons a judge will change custody orders.
Examples of What Will Prompt a Judge to Change a Child Custody Order
Consider the following 11 common reasons a judge will change a custody agreement. Your situation may vary, so get in touch with our family law firm if you have a unique situation.
1. Altered Living Situation
Suppose the living situation of either parent has changed significantly since the original custody order and will negatively affect the child. In that case, a judge may decide to modify the order to ensure the child’s best interests are being met.
Situations that count as a material and substantial change of circumstances in a modification case could include changes in housing quality or even homelessness due to eviction or foreclosure.
2. Changes to Employment, Income, or Work Schedule
Significant changes to either parent’s employment, such as a job loss, pay cut, or an altered work schedule, may result in a child custody modification.
A modification could result if the change in work will affect a parent’s ability to properly care for their child, such as when a parent has switched to a job where they travel often.
Child custody court orders usually work on the assumption that each parent will reside within the same geographic area, and they may prevent the custodial parent from moving out of state.
If one parent intends to move a significant distance away — whether to a new city in Texas or another U.S. state — the court will likely modify the custody order to accommodate this change.
4. Changes to the Family Structure
If there have been changes within either parent’s family, such as remarriage, divorce, or the birth of a new child, the court may decide to modify the custody agreement.
For example, if a parent remarries, the court may decide to modify the order to account for the new spouse’s involvement in caring for the child.
5. Death of a Family Member
The death of a family member can have significant implications on child custody arrangements. One prominent example is when one of the child’s parents passes away.
The death of a close family member — such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or sibling — could also prompt the court to modify a custody order if that family member provided frequent care for the child.
6. Changes to the Child’s Needs
Substantial changes to the child’s needs, such as the diagnosis of a complex medical condition, may require modifications to the child custody order.
Possible modifications include changes to the custodial and non-custodial parent or simply specifying which parent is responsible for bringing the child to doctor’s appointments.
7. Preference of the Child
In Texas, children over the age of 12 have the right to state their preference for a custodial parent based on factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent.
If the child’s wishes align with what is best for them, a judge may modify the custody order to reflect their preference.
8. Violation of the Terms of the Custody Agreement
Suppose either parent has violated the terms of the custody order. In that case, a judge may modify it to prevent further violations or provide additional protections for the child, such as specifying acts that could lead to contempt of court.
Violations could include denying parenting time to the other parent or refusing to adhere to the agreed-upon visitation schedule.
9. Safety Concerns
The top priority of a judge in making any custody decision is the safety of the child. Oftentimes, there are legitimate safety concerns that arise, such as evidence of abuse or neglect.
In these situations, a judge may modify the custody order to protect the child or even remove them from the home without prior notice to the other parent.
10. Questions about Parental Fitness
Substance abuse, severe mental health challenges, or certain criminal convictions can all be considered evidence of a parent’s lack of fitness to care for their child.
A judge may modify the custody order if there is significant evidence that any of these conditions pertain to a parent.
11. Custody Relinquishment
In rare cases, a parent may voluntarily relinquish custody of the child. There could be many reasons in play, such as the parent’s inability to care for the child or simply a lack of interest in being involved in the child’s life.
When a parent requests a custody modification for a legitimate reason, a judge may modify the order to give sole or full custody to the other parent.
Learn More About the Reasons a Judge Will Change Custody
At the end of the day, a judge’s decision to modify a child custody order is entirely up to their discretion. To ensure your parental rights are protected, it is best to consult with a child custody lawyer who can help you understand your rights and develop a plan to advocate for your child’s best interests.
When you turn to our law firm, I will work diligently to ensure your case is given the attention it deserves and that you are informed of all your options moving forward.
I currently work with clients in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County on child custody and modification cases. If you live in one of these counties, contact me today to schedule a consultation.
Call my office today at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss the reasons a judge will change custody orders. I am ready to support your case.