When a Texas court establishes custody orders during a divorce, the idea is to act in the child’s best interest. However, circumstances often change following the divorce. What may have been “in the best interest of the child” during the divorce proceedings may no longer be an accurate reflection of the situation months or years later.
The challenge is getting everyone to agree that a significant change has occurred and that the custody orders should be modified to support your child’s well-being.
For example, perhaps your ex-spouse does not agree that the custody orders should change because the set-up is favorable to them, even if it’s not in the best interest of your child.
In situations like this where you are looking for a way to modify the custody orders following a divorce, it’s important to understand why a judge will change custody orders in Texas. Gaining this understanding will help you assess whether you have a strong argument to pursue a modification of the original order.
The Reasons a Judge Will Change Custody Orders in Texas
The Texas Family Code outlines three primary reasons why a judge can modify an existing custody order following a divorce:
- The child’s well-being is at risk.
- The primary caretaker (e.g., custodial parent) is absent.
- The child has expressed a preference of which parent to reside primarily with.
1. Child’s Well-Being
– Texas Family Code states that a modification can be pursued if “the child’s present circumstances would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development.”
If you pursue a modification because of this reason, then you will need to provide ample evidence to support your claim that the original order should be modified. You would need to gather evidence such as:
- Messages from your child about their present circumstances
- Information from reliable third parties such as teachers, neighbors, or classmates
- Reports from their school, athletic team, or other sources about changes to your child
- A medical report that your child’s physical health is at risk in their current situation
The evidence should be compelling and well-sourced to help you prove that there has been a “material and substantial change” in the circumstances. If you work with me to provide you with expert family law support, I will review your evidence and work toward presenting the strongest possible argument to a judge.
2. Primary Caretaker is Absent
– Texas Family Code states that a judge can consider modifying a custody order if “the person designated in the final order has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child for more than six months.”
What often happens is that the custodial parent leaves the state or country for a period of time and leaves the child in the care of a friend, neighbor, grandparent, or another relative.
If this situation becomes more than a brief occurrence – and if the child is being negatively affected by the arrangement – then you could petition the court to modify the original order to provide you with greater control over the child’s day-to-day living arrangements.
You would need to gather evidence about why your child is not benefiting from the situation, such as experiencing emotional or physical damage from neglect or abuse. Make sure you save messages from your child and gather other supporting evidence that can help you prove your argument.
3. Child Wants a Change
– Texas Family Code states that a modification could be pursued if a child is above the age of 12 and expresses to the court “the name of the person who is the child’s preference to have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child.”
This is where things can become contentious. What often happens is that the child says he or she wants to live with the non-custodial parent, but the custodial parent counter-argues that the child was coerced into making the claim.
If you are the non-custodial parent and want to pursue a modification because your child has said they want to live with you, you will need to gather compelling evidence to present to the court.
You will also need to be prepared to address any claims from your ex-spouse that you coerced your child into changing their mind about where they should primarily live. I can help you present the best possible argument if you ask a judge to change the custody order based on this reason.
Find Expert Legal Support to Achieve Your End Goal
Now that you have a greater understanding of the reasons a judge will change custody orders following a divorce, you should be able to set a goal for your pursuit of a modification.
- Do you want to change the visitation schedule to spend more time with your child?
- Do you want to pursue sole possession of your child?
- Do you have another goal in mind that you want to achieve by modifying the order?
Having a goal in mind will help direct your efforts as you pursue a modification. I can help you reach your goal by providing expert legal support arguing for the judge to act in the best interest of your child.
Over the past decade, I have helped countless parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County modify an order. If you live in one of these counties, then contact me right away to discuss your case.
Call my offices today at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to start working on a modification of a custody order. I’m here to help.