A mother hugging her child after navigating a child custody dispute

What Voids a Custody Agreement? Watch Out for These 3 Things

Parents in Texas have a duty to uphold the terms of their child custody agreement. When either parent violates the terms of a child custody order, the other parent has a right to petition the court for a modification.

This type of legal action could result in a significant change to the custody arrangement and possibly limit or even eliminate the legal custody rights of one parent. In some cases, the court may even terminate a parent’s rights without a modification being filed, effectively voiding the custody agreement.

So, what voids a custody agreement? Only substantial custody agreement violations can result in a complete termination or voiding of the arrangement. Let’s take a closer look.

What Voids a Custody Agreement in Texas

It is important to know what types of actions may result in a custody agreement being nullified. Generally, there are three categories of actions that could steer a custody case toward this outcome.

1. Child Endangerment

The Texas Family Court system is, first and foremost, concerned with the best interest of the child. As such, any behavior that puts the child’s safety or well-being at risk will likely result in the custody agreement being modified.

Examples of this type of violation include:

  • Neglecting the child’s needs, such as failing to provide adequate clothing, food, or shelter.
  • Engaging in substance abuse while around the child.
  • Exposing the child to situations that could harm them, such as leaving them unsupervised in public or allowing an abuser access to the child.
  • Serious mental health issues such as extreme depression or paranoia.
  • Physical or sexual abuse.
  • Emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse, such as belittling the child or using intimidation tactics.

These types of instances are often brought to the court’s attention by law enforcement when a parent is arrested or by Child Protective Services (CPS) when an instance of abuse or neglect has been reported.

However, the other parent may also be able to file a motion to modify with the court citing endangerment and presenting evidence of inappropriate behavior.

2. Abandonment of the Child

Abandonment of a child is not just an action – it can also be a lack of action. When either parent chooses to ignore the parent-child relationship, the court may deem this action to be an abandonment of the child and move to terminate or significantly limit their rights.

As a result, the status of the offending parent could be changed to that of a non-custodial parent with limited visitation privileges, making the other parent the sole custodial parent.

This type of violation could include:

  • A parent fails to spend time with the child or provide emotional support.
  • A parent fails to support the child financially.
  • A parent makes decisions that actively harm the parent-child relationship, such as moving away or leaving the child with another family member for an extended period of time.

The length of time the child has been abandoned is a critical factor when determining how likely the court will terminate a parent’s rights.

The court may consider termination if the abandonment has been ongoing for at least six months. Less time-intensive violations of the custody agreement are more likely to result in a modification than a termination.

3. Relocating Without Consent

Many child custody agreements have limitations on how far away from the original location either parent can move, and both parents must agree to any relocation. If one parent moves out of the state or more than a specified distance away, it may be considered a substantial violation of the agreement.

The court may use various methods to decide how to proceed with this type of violation.

  • In some cases, modification of the agreement may be the best option.
  • Other times, the court may order that one parent return to the original location.
  • The court may also issue a visitation order to limit the parent’s time with the child until a new agreement can be worked out.

Completely voiding the agreement is unlikely in these cases unless the relocation is accompanied by abandonment or child endangerment.

Get Help From an Experienced Family Law Attorney

It is important to remember that every case – and every family – is unique, so the court’s reaction to a violation of a child custody agreement will depend on the specifics of each situation. If the court is notified of a violation of a custody order with ample evidence to back up the claims, the court may take action against the offender.

When a modification or termination of the custody or visitation agreement is not an option, the offending parent can still be charged with contempt of court.

A contempt of court finding will require the parent to comply with the original custody agreement or face further legal penalties, including fines or jail time. They may even be ordered to pay the other parent’s attorney fees if they have to take the case to court.

If you are concerned that your child’s other parent has violated a custody agreement, you will want to speak to a family law attorney.

When you turn to my law office about your child custody case, I will review the agreement and the alleged violation. I will then advise on how to proceed. For instance, if you believe the other party is intentionally trying to void the agreement, I can guide you in filing a motion to enforce the original court order.

I currently help clients with child custody disputes in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss your case.

Let’s further discuss what voids a custody agreement so that you are aware of your parental rights. Reach out to me today to talk about your situation.