How to Modify Child Custody (Conservatorship) in Texas?

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While most states use the term “child custody” when determining the care, control, and maintenance of a child, Texas uses the term “conservatorship.” However, many Texans still refer to conservatorship as child custody.

Child custody arrangements are not always set in stone. It is normal for circumstances to change after the original child custody order was issued. When this happens, either parent may request a modification of conservatorship.

While it is possible to request a modification, the court will not grant the request to modify child support unless specific requirements are met. If you are considering modifying your child custody (conservatorship) order in Texas, consult with a Lampasas child custody lawyer.

When Can a Texas Court Agree to Modify Child Custody?

Filing a request for modification of child custody is no guarantee that the court will grant it. When reviewing your request for modification, the court will have to determine if the proposed changes are in the child’s best interests.

According to the Texas Family Code § 156.101, there are three grounds to modify child conservatorship in Texas:

  1. A change in circumstances. You can modify the custody order if the circumstances of either parent, the child, or another person affected by the conservatorship order have changed since the current order or settlement agreement was signed. However, the change must be material and substantial to warrant a modification.

  2. The child’s preference. The child, who is 12 years of age or older, has expressed his or her preference to live with another parent (when one of the parents has the exclusive right to establish the child’s primary residence).

  3. Relinquishment of the rights. The parent who currently has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child has voluntarily relinquished their rights to the other parent for a minimum of six months.

However, you cannot modify child custody based on the third ground if the conservator had to relinquish their right to primary care and possession of the child because they were ordered to military deployment, mobilization, or duty.

What is a Material and Substantial Change in Circumstances?

As mentioned earlier, Texas courts require the requesting party to prove a material and substantial change in circumstances to grant the proposed changes to the current child conservatorship order.

Examples of a material and substantial change in circumstances to grant a modification include:

  • A parent’s remarriage that affects their ability to adhere to the current custody arrangements;

  • A parent’s injury, illness, or disability that affects their ability to care for the child;

  • A parent has to relocate to another city, state, or country, and the relocation affects their ability to follow the current order; or

  • Either parent has been found guilty of child abuse, neglect, or domestic violence.

A Guide to Modifying a Child Custody (Conservatorship) Order in Texas

Step 1: Filing a Petition to Modify Child Conservatorship

If you wish to modify a child conservatorship order in Texas, you have to file a Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship with the court that issued the existing order. You will also have to fill out other forms and submit them to the court when requesting a modification.

Step 2: Proceed with the Modification

What happens once you file a petition to modify child support depends on whether the other parent (the Respondent) agrees to the proposed modification.

  • If the Respondent agrees, he or she will have to sign documents agreeing to the proposed changes to the current conservatorship order. Then, the court will hold a hearing to review the modification request and ensure that the proposed changes are in the child’s best interests before approving the modification.

  • If the Respondent does not agree, he or she can either ignore the modification request or object to the petition by filing a response.

Step 3: Waiting for the Respondent’s Response to Object the Modification

If the Respondent does not agree to the modification, they must file a response objecting to the Petitioner’s motion to modify the current order. Once the court receives the Respondent’s response, it will schedule a hearing to hear testimony from the Petitioner and Respondent to approve or reject the modification.

However, if no objection is filed by the Petitioner, the judge will issue a default judgment without hearing the Respondent’s testimony. The Respondent has a specific number of days to file an objection to the modification. If the Respondent fails to file an objection within the applicable timeframe, the court will schedule a hearing to review your modification case without the Respondent.

It is advisable to be represented by an experienced child custody lawyer when filing a petition to modify the current conservatorship order. You need a skilled attorney on your side to convince the judge that the modification should be granted.

A typical custody modification case can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

What if the Child is in Urgent Danger?

If your situation is urgent, the court may issue a temporary custody order. You may be able to obtain a temporary custody order while your modification case is pending.

You may be able to ask the court to issue an emergency custody order and temporary restraining order if you believe that your child is at risk of immediate danger. For example, if your child has been abused or neglected by the other parent, you may be able to request a temporary custody order.

Obtaining a temporary custody order is possible when the child is in urgent danger. In such situations, the judge will issue a temporary order and hear the modification case in order to protect the child from potential dangers.

A temporary order will be effective until the judge holds a hearing and decides on the permanent custody order.

Consult with a Lampasas Child Custody Lawyer

If you wish to modify your existing child conservatorship order, it is best to contact a skilled attorney to fight for your rights and convince the judge to grant the modification request.

Schedule a consultation with our Lampasas child custody lawyers at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to discuss how you can modify a conservatorship order in your particular case. Call 254-501-4040 or contact us online to book a case review.
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