What Are the Grounds for Child Custody Modification in Texas?

little boy running to dad

Many things can change after a divorce, which is why many divorced parents in Texas wonder, “What circumstances can warrant a child custody modification?” In other words, what grounds do you need to request a modification of child custody (also known as conservatorship in Texas)? 

As a divorced parent who shares conservatorship rights with the other parent of your child, you need to understand what situations may warrant a child custody modification in Texas. If you are considering changing your existing custody order, consult with a Copperas Cove child custody lawyer

When Can You Modify Child Custody in Texas? 

Under Texas Family Code § 156.101, Texas courts recognize three grounds for a child custody modification: 

  1. There has been a material and/or substantial change in circumstances since the date the original custody order was established; 

  2. A child expressed their preference to change the custody order (the child must be no less than 12 years of age for their expressed preference to be considered for a modification); and

  3. The primary conservator (the parent with the exclusive right to choose the child’s primary residence) has voluntarily relinquished their right to primary care and possession.

The vast majority of child custody modification cases are based on the first ground (a material or substantial change in circumstances). A Texas court may not grant a request for modification if the changes in circumstances are either temporary or not substantial. 

Example. A modification request may not be granted if a parent relocates to another location across the city. However, if a parent moves to another city, state, or country with the child, a court is likely to approve a modification request as long as the requested modification is in the child’s best interests. 

Aside from relocation, other circumstances that can be significant and material and may warrant a modification include:

  • Loss of a job

  • A parent’s failure or refusal to follow custody terms

  • A substantial change in the child’s needs

  • Either parent or child’s physical or mental health issues

  • Either parent’s substance abuse

  • Child abuse, neglect, or abandonment

Consult with a lawyer if you are considering requesting a child custody modification. An attorney will review your particular situation to determine whether or not a Texas court will grant a modification in your case. 

Can You Modify a Child Custody Order Within One Year? 

If it has been less than a year from the date of the current child custody order and you wish to modify the order, you can request a modification if any of the following is true: 

  1. The modification case is filed by the parent with primary custody rights, or that parent agrees to the requested changes; 

  2. The current arrangement may pose a danger to the child’s physical or mental health or harm their emotional development; or

  3. The parent who has primary custody has allowed another person to have primary care and possession for six months or longer unless that parent was away on active duty. 

When seeking a modification within a year of the date of the current child custody order, the modification request should be supported by concrete facts and evidence. If a judge determines that there are grounds to grant a modification, they will set up a hearing to change the custody order. 

In the absence of grounds to modify a child custody order, the judge will dismiss the modification request. In that case, the parties will continue to follow the existing, unchanged custody order. 

Depending on the circumstances of your case, a judge may also grant a temporary change in primary conservatorship. 

Why You Need a Child Custody Lawyer for a Modification Case

If you or your former spouse is attempting to modify child custody, do not hesitate to speak with a lawyer to discuss your options. An experienced lawyer will help you obtain a favorable outcome and protect the best interests of your child when handling your modification case.

When asking a Texas court to modify the existing child custody agreement, you must be able to present clear and convincing evidence supporting the modification. Your lawyer will help you strengthen your case and convince the judge to grant your modification request. 

If you are opposing the other parent’s attempts to change a child custody order, it is equally important to contact a knowledgeable lawyer to prove that the requested modification is not appropriate or would not be in the best interests of the child. 

How to Modify Child Support in Texas? 

In addition to modifying child custody (conservatorship), divorced parents in Texas may wish to change child support. A child support order can only be changed through a formal court order. Any informal agreements between the parents regarding the change in child support are not legally binding. 

According to Texas Family Code § 156.401, there are two grounds to grant a modification of child support:

  1. The circumstances of the parents, child, or other persons affected by the existing order have changed materially and significantly since the date the order was established or the date a divorce settlement agreement was reached; or

  2. More than three years have passed since the date of the original child support order, and changing the order would alter the monthly payments by over $100 or 20% per month compared to the original obligation. 

If you wish to modify your existing child support obligation, it is essential to act quickly because child support orders cannot be modified retroactively in Texas. Consult with an attorney to determine how you can change your child support obligation in your particular case. 

Consult with a Copperas Cove Child Custody Lawyer

Schedule a free case review with our Copperas Cove child custody lawyers at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to discuss your particular situation and help you with your modification case. Our attorneys will help you understand whether or not there are grounds to seek a modification of child custody (conservatorship) in your case. Call (254) 220-4225 to receive a free consultation.


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