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Child custody terms are outlined in a court order and there are penalties for going against the agreement unless it is legally modified. However, Texas family law understands that family circumstances change and that a certain amount of flexibility is required to ensure that custody agreements remain fit for purpose. However, this flexibility needs to balance with a child’s welfare and need for stability.

Texas courts will consider child custody modifications under specific criteria, including when both parents agree to the change, if the child is over 12 years of age, or if there has been a substantial change in the family circumstances. 

Child custody modification is a legal process and will always involve the courts, even when both parents agree. If you are considering starting a custody modification case, a Katy child custody lawyer will be crucial to securing the desired outcome for you and your family.

Skillern Firm Custody Modification Lawyers, Katy, TX

Skillern Firm’s family law firm has extensive experience working with families in Katy, TX, to review and modify child custody arrangements when they no longer align with the needs of the family. Custody modifications can face scrutiny from the Judge and some circumstances require a strong case and a body of supporting evidence.

Our Katy child custody lawyers are experts in family law issues and child custody cases, including modification. We can provide advice specific to your circumstances and guide you through the entire process to secure a successful outcome for you and your children. Contact a Katy child custody lawyer today at 936-213-8479.

What Is A Child Custody Modification?

When a couple goes through the divorce process, their child custody arrangements are agreed upon and outlined in the final divorce decree. This is a court order and parents must file a formal child custody modification with the court to change the arrangements.

Generally, a motion to modify child custody will be closely scrutinized by the courts. The implications of a change in schedule for a child can be substantial. This change could result in an interruption in education, leaving groups of friends and family, and general disruption to a child’s life. 

A court will not generally grant a modification for seemingly trivial reasons, so you need a well-evidenced case to modify your custody agreement. Seek the advice of a Katy modification attorney to ensure that you have a strong case for modification.

How Do I File For Child Custody Modification?

In Texas, custody modification must be filed with the courts in the same county where the current order was made. However, if the child has lived in another county for at least 6 months, you can ask for the case to be transferred to the child’s current home county after filing in the original county. You may encounter complications if you are looking to file a modification across state lines and different jurisdictions or if your original order is not from Texas. In this situation, it is best to seek the advice of a child custody attorney.

Grounds For Modification In Texas

Texas family law aims to ensure that a custody agreement consistently supports a child’s best interests. The court will consider a child custody modification in the following situations:

  • Both parents agree to the modification.
  • The child is over 12 years old and states a preference to change their primary custodial parent which is taken into consideration by the Judge but, not an absolute for modification
  • The individual with primary custody has voluntarily relinquished caregiving responsibilities for the child to another adult for at least 6 months before the modification.
  • There has been a material change in the circumstances of one of the individuals involved in the custody order. These include the child, parents, or anyone else involved.

Material Change In Circumstances

A material change in circumstances is the most common justification for parents to modify an agreement in a child custody case. This is a broad term and there is a wide range of accepted justifications in this category. A material change could include the relocation of a parent, remarriage, parental conflict, or if a parent interferes with visitation. 

Other examples of material changes in circumstances include if a parent is involved in criminal proceedings, if the child may be in danger, or if there is parental alienation. If you believe your child’s safety is at risk in your current situation, seek the advice of the appropriate authorities and a family law attorney as quickly as possible.

Parent Relocation

If you or your former spouse are planning to relocate out of state or a fair distance from the current location, this could impact a parent’s ability to maintain the current custody agreement. As such, parental relocation can justify the court granting a custody modification. However, before deciding, the court will review how the move impacts visitation and how the parents communicated to make the current visitation schedule work. The court will also consider the parent’s motivation for moving, how the relocation may impact the child’s life, considering the distance from extended family, friendships, and extracurricular activities.

If you are looking to relocate and modify your custody agreement, or if your ex is planning to relocate and may alter your custody, seek legal representation to ensure you protect your rights and find the best solution for your family.

Interference With Visitation

The presence of both parents in a child’s life is a priority in Texas law. If either parent attempts to interfere with the visitation schedule outlined in their court order, this could be grounds for a custody modification. A parent may interfere with the visitation schedule due to conflicting commitments, personal problems with the other parent, or if they are using visitation as leverage in other matters. 

Before a court approves a modification due to visitation interference, parents will need to review the visitation schedule. The court will consider how they communicate together and the reasons that the schedule was not followed.

Types Of Child Custody Modification

There are three main types of modification in Texas family law that depend on both parents’ response to the initial request to modify. These are modification by agreement, modification by default, and contested modification. Legal representation will benefit you in this process regardless of the type of modification you pursue. However, in some situations, legal representation may be more important to secure a successful outcome.

Modification By Agreement

In situations where both parents agree when determining custody, this can be a relatively simple process to complete. In a modification by agreement, both parents propose the agreed changes to the court for approval. The Judge then reviews the proposal, and provided that the new arrangement remains in the child’s best interest, it is likely to be approved.

Although a modification by agreement may seem like the ideal situation, it is still important to make sure your rights are protected. Legal representation from a child custody attorney will protect you in these situations and ensure that your case does not result in an unsatisfactory custody agreement.

Modification By Default

When one parent wishes to modify an agreement, they will serve the other parent with the proposed changes. The other parent has 20 days to respond to this proposal, whereby they can agree to the terms or contest them. If a parent does not respond within the allotted time, the custody modification is then approved by default. In this circumstance, the case is resolved without the other parent’s input. If you have been served with child custody modification papers, you must respond to ensure your voice is heard.

Contested Modification

In all custody modifications, parents can agree to a new custody arrangement between themselves and present this to the court for finalizing. However, co-parenting relationships can be complex and parents do not always see eye-to-eye on all parenting issues. Time spent with your child is often a parent’s utmost priority, as such custody arrangements can often be an area of disagreement. If you and your ex spouse cannot agree on the terms of the modification, one parent may file a modification.

To resolve a contested modification, a hearing is scheduled where a court will make the final decision on the terms. An attorney can help you to navigate the procedures of a hearing to give your case the best chance of success.

A family law attorney is recommended in most cases of custody modification, however, an experienced attorney is more essential in contested modification cases. You may face challenges in the hearing if your child’s other parent disagrees with your modification proposal and it is likely that they will have legal representation to fight the changes.

Who Can File For A Child Custody Modification?

Either parent can file for a modification if they have justifiable grounds. In some circumstances, individuals that are not the child’s parent can also file. Individuals, other than parents that can file include:

  • An individual who is already listed as a party on the current custody order.
  • An individual who has lived with the child’s parent or guardian for at least 6 months within 90 days of the date of filing, if the child’s parent or guardian has died.
  • Someone who has had actual care and possession of the child for at least 6 months within 90 days of the date of filing, and who is not a foster parent.
  • The child’s grandparent, great-grandparent, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew, in situations where both parents are dead, both parents or the managing conservator agree, or when the child’s current circumstances will harm their development or physical health.

Modification To Custody Within One Year

To reduce continued disruption to a child, in most circumstances custody agreements must remain in place for one year in Texas before being changed. In certain situations, usually, when a modification is required to keep the child safe, the custody order can be adjusted within the year.

Circumstances in which a modification within the year may be approved include, when the child’s safety is at risk, when the adult who has primary custody requests the change or agrees with the change, or when someone other than the custodial parent has been the primary caregiver for at least 6 months.

Contact Skillern Firm To Start The Child Custody Modification Process

Challenges with custody agreements can put a substantial strain on families and relationships between parents and children. It is important that your child custody agreement fits your family’s needs and supports your child’s best interests.

At Skillern Firm, our family law attorneys can offer expert advice on every aspect of the custody modification process and will work with you and any other custodians of your child to find the best solution for you.

We are highly skilled in negotiation and if necessary, we will not hesitate to fight for your parental rights and the well-being of your children in the courtroom. Contact our experts in family law matters today at 936-213-8479 to discuss your case with our family lawyers.