Child custody orders in Texas typically require a change at some point before a child’s 18th birthday. This outcome isn’t because something was wrong with the original order when it was created. Rather, the needs of a child usually change as they age, and parents are likely to experience changes in their circumstances that may require a fresh look at the custody order.
But just because a custody order no longer benefits you or your child doesn’t mean you can disregard it. Otherwise, you could be found in contempt of court. You must go through the court system to modify a custody order, which means taking the proper legal steps.
Take a look at the process to modify custody order Texas residents need to be aware of.
5 Steps to Modify Custody Order Texas Residents Need to Know
Consider the following typical progression on the path to modifying an existing custody order.
- Hire a family law attorney
- Negotiate a new agreement
- Petition the court
- A judge determines the best interest of the child
- Confirm a substantial change in circumstances
1. Hire the Right Lawyer
When modifying a custody order, you need an experienced family law attorney to assist you. If you worked with our team at Parker & Aguilar to support your original custody case, we will gladly work with you to support the modification process.
We will be familiar with your case and will require less time to get up to speed on the change in circumstances that prompted you to pursue a modification, which will save time and money.
If you worked with a different attorney to establish the original custody order and are unhappy with the results, you will want to find a family law attorney with a solid record of handling child custody cases and modifications.
When you select Parker & Aguilar, you will find a team that takes a compassionate approach to your case. We are prepared to step into your situation to support the modification.
2. Negotiate a New Agreement if Possible
Once you select an attorney to represent you, it’s time to pursue a change to the original custody order. One of the best ways to modify a custody order in Texas is to negotiate a new deal with the other parent and then get the court to approve it.
Typically, when both parents agree, the court will support that arrangement unless there is a reason to believe the agreement is not in the best interests of the child.
3. Petition the Court
You will need a judge to sign off on modifications to a custody order, even if both parents agree. But if you and the other parent disagree, you need a judge to side with your case. That means you will need to file a petition for a child custody modification, then present evidence and testify before a judge.
The judge is bound by the Texas custody laws outlined in the Texas Family Code to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child. When making a determination, the judge will consider key factors pertaining to your case. Working with a family law attorney will help you prevent the strongest argument for the judge to consider.
4. Preference of the Child
If a child is at least 12 years old, they are allowed to express a preference to the court about which parent they would primarily like to live with. Or, a child may express a preference to spend roughly equal time with both parents.
The court will examine this preference to ensure that the child was not pressured into siding with one parent over the other. After examining the parent-child relationship, the child’s preference will usually be respected by the court.
If you are concerned about this aspect of your case, it’s crucial to work with a family law attorney to help you present the best argument before the judge.
5. Material and Substantial Change in Circumstances
There are several positive and negative changes in circumstances that could affect whether a custody order should be modified. The most prominent changes in circumstances that may cause a judge to alter a custody order include the following:
- Custodial parent or noncustodial parent plans to move to another state or country
- Remarriage of either parent
- A significant change in job or hours worked
- Defiance of the current custody order that outlines possession of the child
- Evidence of substance abuse, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, or child abuse
- Major changes in the child’s schedule that impact the parenting time schedule
A serious injury, disability, or illness that prevents one parent from providing appropriate care to their child could also cause a judge to change the custody order.
Your attorney will collect evidence of these changes in circumstances and present them to the judge, along with suggested modifications to the custody order.
The Importance of the One-Year Wait Period
In Texas, parents are typically bound by a one-year waiting period before they can pursue a modification of the original order. This means that if you request modification within 12 months of the order being established, you will need support from an attorney to present your case before a judge.
However, even this rule has exceptions. If the parent with primary custody files for a modification or agrees to changes suggested by the other, the one-year wait can be waived. Additionally, the one-year wait period does not apply if you can prove that the current arrangement places your child in harm.
Finally, an unusual situation that affects the child’s best interests will get the attention of a judge, even if it’s within one year. For example, if the custodial parent has relinquished care to another individual – even a family member – for at least six months, you can petition to modify the order.
Contact Parker & Aguilar Today for Expert Support
No matter what is causing you to pursue a modification of a child custody order, it’s important to work with a seasoned family law attorney. You must follow specific procedures to create a legal change that both parents are bound by.
We currently support parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, reach out to our offices to discuss your child custody case.
Call our offices at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with one of our helpful attorneys. Our experienced family law attorneys can help you take the right steps working through the Texas court system.
We are prepared to discuss the steps to modify custody order Texas parents need to be aware of and help you on the path to a modification.