It’s not uncommon for parents to want to modify an existing child custody order. After all, life circumstances can change, and the original arrangement between parents may not work for all parties anymore.
If you want to change a court order to help restore the relationship with your child, you should know a few things about how the legal process works in Texas. Here’s how to modify a court order for child custody.
Legal Requirements for Modifying Child Custody in Texas
Under Texas law, a parent can petition the court to modify a child custody order if they are eligible for a review and modification. A custody modification can include changes to the following:
- Who has custody of the child.
- The parenting plan or visitation schedule.
For instance, you may want to change from joint custody to full custody, or you may want to modify the orders so that the visitation schedule accommodates a new work schedule.
In most cases, the court will only grant a modification if there has been a material and substantial change in the circumstances affecting the parent-child relationship in the time since the original custody order was issued.
The parent requesting the modification must also provide evidence that a different custody and visitation arrangement would better serve the child’s best interests. This scenario can play out in many ways. Consider three common examples:
1. If one parent moves to a different city, that may be considered a material and substantial change warranting a modification of parenting time.
2. Other circumstances that may warrant a modification include new medical support needs that affect the parent’s ability to care for the child.
3. The original order could be modified if one parent enters a new marriage that negatively affects the current custody arrangement or leads to neglect/abuse against the child.
Additionally, a child could participate in a custody change. If the child is 12 years old or older, they can request a change in custody to the court, and the court will strongly consider their preference. The judge will interview the child privately to assess their maturity and decision-making abilities.
How to Modify a Court Order to Support Your Child
Suppose you’re seeking to modify a custody arrangement in Texas. In that case, you’ll need to file a motion to legally alter the order using a form called “Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship.”
The petition must be filed with the court that issued the existing custody order. If either parent has moved counties with the child since the existing order was issued, the case will need to be transferred to the new county.
The next steps will depend on whether the child’s other parent agrees to the modification.
– If both parents agree to the new arrangement, they can each sign forms in agreement. As the case will be considered uncontested, the parents will only need to appear in court once to finalize the new arrangement before the judge.
It is always best if parents can reach an agreement outside of court, as this will be less costly and time-consuming.
– If one parent does not agree to the modification, the case will be considered contested. Then, the other parent will need to file papers objecting to the motion, and the court will set a hearing date.
At the court hearing, both parents will have an opportunity to present evidence and argue their case before the judge, who will determine whether to modify the order.
In some cases, the other parent may fail to object to the modification or show up to court. If this happens, the judge may grant the modification without requiring the other parent’s participation. They will simply consider the petitioner’s evidence and decide whether or not to modify the arrangement.
Evidence Required to Modify a Texas Child Custody Order
To successfully modify a child custody order in Texas, you must present evidence to the court supporting your case. A sample of evidence includes the following:
- School records (e.g. showing a dip in grades or an increase in poor behavior).
- Medical records (e.g. evidence that your child is subject to abuse).
- Emails, text messages, and other forms of communication.
- Testimonials, photos, or any other documentation that supports your claims.
If your case is based on a change in circumstance, you will need to demonstrate that the change is material and substantial, meaning that the change must have a significant impact on the child’s life or the ability of either parent to care for the child.
The actual evidence required will vary depending on the circumstances of the case, but it is critical to have as much documentation as possible to support your claims.
The evidence required for your case may also depend on the type of modification you pursue. For example, if you desire to change from joint custody to full custody, the court will require compelling evidence that the other parent is unfit or unable to care for the child. You will need to gather and present solid, credible evidence, such as the following:
- Drug or alcohol abuse.
- Recent criminal record.
- History of domestic violence.
- CPS reports.
How an Attorney Can Help With a Modification Request
Filing for a child custody modification can be complex, and having an experienced advocate is vital. A qualified family law attorney can help you understand how to modify a court order, navigate the legal system, ensure that necessary paperwork is filed, and represent you in court.
When you turn to my law firm for legal advice and advocacy regarding a custody modification, you can be confident that your case is in good hands. I will start by reviewing the original child custody order to determine where there is an opportunity to modify the order for the most favorable outcome.
I am adept at helping clients gather the appropriate evidence and presenting the strongest argument to modify an existing custody or child support order.
I currently assist parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, contact my office to schedule a consultation. You can reach my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss your case.
Together, we can devise a strategy that improves your custody arrangement and supports your child’s best interests. Let’s get started today on modifying the court order.