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Changing a child custody order

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A parent may need to ask for a modification of a child support order governing parental access. Modification must meet Texas' legal requirements.

A parent may seek a change of a custody order by filing a modification case with a court in the county where the order was issued, under most circumstances. One year must lapse from the issuance of the current order before seeking a modification unless legal requirements are met.

A person who is not a parent may file this case if they are listed as a party in the current order or meet requirements concerning their relationship with the child. Grandparents and other relatives may seek modification under certain circumstances.

The requested change must be in the best interest of the child and meet at least one other requirement. First, the circumstances of the child, the conservator or another person affected by the order changed in a material and substantial way. Second, the child is at least 12-years-old and informs the judge who they want to live with. Or, the person with primary custody allowed someone else to have primary care and possession of the child for at least six months unless the person was on active military deployment.

A conviction or deferred adjudication order for family violence or child abuse is also a material change in circumstances. These offenses may also meet this standard if the other parent was not arrested or convicted.

A Texas court cannot permanently change custody if a parent is on active military deployment unless the parents or the named conservators agree. Either parent, however, can seek an order that temporarily changes child custody during deployment.

In these cases, the court prefers that the other parent have temporary custody. When that is not in the child's best interest, the next preference is a person designated by the military person. The third option is a person that the court selects. The court can also temporarily change visitation by other relatives.

When a parent with visitation rights is deployed, they may ask the court to issue a temporary order allowing another relative to visit the child during their deployment. They can also seek make-up visits which must be filed within 90 days after the deployment ends.

An attorney can advise parents on seeking a fair and enforceable custody agreement or order. They may also prepare a case seeking agreement modification.

Source: Texas lawhelp.org, "Changing a custody, visitation or child support order," Accessed March 5, 2018

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