When an order for conservatorship, possession, and access is entered with the court, it is based upon the circumstances of the family at that time. What worked at the time of a divorce, or at the time of a child's birth, may not work forever. Material changes in circumstances like a new job, job loss, and relocation are quite common and may be grounds to modify a prior court order. Conservatorship, possession and access, and child support may be modified until a child is 18 and has graduated from high school.
Modifications In Texas
In Texas, certain situations allow a person to petition the court for a change or a modification to the custody order. Custody modifications may be considered under the following circumstances:
- The parent who has the exclusive right to determine the child's primary residence has voluntarily given up the primary care or possession of the child for at least six months. In this circumstance, the order is often modified to change which parent pays child support and which parent has the possession and access schedule. Often there is also a modification of the rights and duties of the parents. This ground does not apply to a parent who temporarily relinquishes primary care due to military deployment.
- The circumstances of the parents have changed substantially and materially: Substantial and material changes in circumstances can be almost any change in life circumstances. Most often, a change in employment that affects income is the source of modifications. If a person's work schedule changes, they may need a change to the possession and access schedule, especially if the parents have shared custody of a child. Other significant changes include relocation, criminal convictions, substance abuse issues, or other lifestyle changes.
- The child is at least 12 years old and wishes to express to the Court the name of the person whom the child prefers to have the exclusive right to designate the child's primary residence. The child must express his or her desire to the judge in chambers. The child must very clearly specify that he or she desires a change in his or her primary residence.
In addition to the above grounds, the modification must also be proven to be in the best interest of the child.
Filing For a Custody Modification
Your attorney will help you determine if you have appropriate grounds to petition the court for a modification. Your attorney will also guide you through the modification process. There are times when a petition may be filed and then the parents of the child reach an agreement without the need for any court intervention other than a signature from the judge on a final order.
Unfortunately, there are many modifications that require hearings, discovery, mediations, and final trials. There are emergency situations where a child is in danger and the court can intervene to restrict a parent's access to the child. Your attorney will help you get temporary orders in place while the modification suit is pending to protect your child from harm or a harmful environment.