Custody modification is possible in Texas when parents agree to change their parenting plan. Either parent or another family member or guardian who appears on the current agreement can ask for the modification.
Factors weighed for modification
What if one parent contests?
If both parents agree, they can sign the necessary documents to make a new parenting plan by a legally binding “Agreed Order” through the court that issued the original custody order. Otherwise, the parent who wants to make a change has to petition the court and schedule hearings on their requests for relief in the due course of that new lawsuit.
A judge will then hold a one or more hearings to decide whether to change the custody agreement or keep the existing parenting plan. Both parents will have 45-days-notice to gather evidence for a final hearing, but need only have 3 days advance notice for a Temporary Order hearing in Texas. The parent who did not file the modification petition can also respond with their petition.
What are the standards for modification?
The parent who has requested the change must meet the same “best interest of the child” standard as in the original custody case, evidenced by school and medical records, witness testimony, and other information. They must also show:
- A material and substantial change in personal, child, or family circumstances;
- That the child age 12 or older wishes to live with the other parent; or
- Someone besides the custodial parent has had custody for at least six months (excepting military deployment).
Important details to remember
Although changes may be on the horizon, parents must continue to follow the terms of the existing custody order until the judge signs a new parenting plan. Failure to do so can result in legal sanctions such as contempt of court. There may be disagreement regarding the details of the modification, so it is highly recommended that a parent work with an experienced Texas Board-Certified Family Law expert attorney, who can help define their client’s point of view, find a workable solution for the entire family and draft a binding agreement.