Can you modify a child custody agreement in Texas?

There are situations in Texas when the courts will allow changes to a child custody agreement.

It is not uncommon for couples to finalize their divorce and realize a child custody agreement does not work with their post-divorce life. This may lead the parents to consider a change, or modification, to the agreement. Common causes for the need to change a child custody agreement include a change in jobs, move to a new area to start fresh or the realization that the agreement just does not work the way it was anticipated during negotiations.

Does Texas allow for modifications to child custody agreements?

Texas state law allows parents to make changes, referred to as a modification of the agreement, in certain situations. The individual seeking a modification must generally establish that there was a "material and substantial change" in circumstances to warrant the change. The individual filing for the modification must also establish the change is in the best interest of the child.

Although decided on a case-by-case basis, courts have accepted a change in location or military service change to warrant a modification.

How does a person get a modification to a child custody agreement?

The person filing the modification must generally do so in the court that issued the final divorce order.

Courts are not known for quick turnaround times. As such, there are certain situations that warrant a temporary order for a modification. Courts may allow for temporary orders when an individual voluntarily relinquishes his or her primary care of the child, the motion is in the best interest of the child, the child is 12 years of age or older and has filed with the court and the court deems the modification in the best interest of the child or in situations where the child's physical health is in danger or the current situation poses a hinderance to the child's emotional development.

Although this piece has discussed a modification as requested by a parent, it is important to note that in some cases, this can mean someone other than a parent could request a modification. There are situations when a grandparent could petition for a change in the child custody relationship - potentially arguing for conservatorship, or custody, of the child. This generally requires the grandparent establish the parent is incompetent or otherwise unable to provide a safe environment for the child.

Do I need an attorney to get a modification?

It is important to note that although you may come up with unofficial agreements on your own, such agreements are not enforceable unless contained within a court order. It is also important to take additional considerations, such as a potential change to child support arrangements, into account at the same time.

As such, those attempting to get a modification are wise to seek legal counsel. An attorney experienced in child support or custody modifications in Texas can review your case and help to better ensure the likelihood of a successful modification.