Circumstances changed? You may qualify for a child custody modification

Divorced parents that have experienced a significant change in their lives can seek to have their child custody order modified.

If your life is like virtually everyone else's, circumstances in it periodically change. Although this is a normal part of life, if you are a divorced parent, it can be especially problematic. Your situation may evolve to the point where the child custody order no longer is a good fit for your child or yourself. Fortunately, in such cases, it is possible to ask the court to modify the custody order in many cases.

When can an order be modified?

Either parent can seek modification of a custody order at any time in Texas. Additionally, children may do likewise once they have reached the age of 12. In cases where both parents agree that a custody modification is necessary, the process is rather quick and simple. In such cases, a modified order reflecting the changes is submitted to the court. Once the court has reviewed and approved it, the new order becomes effective.

However, if the parents cannot agree on the terms of the new order, or do not agree that a modification to the existing order is necessary, the issue must be litigated before the court. In Texas, in order to be successful, the party wishing to change the custody order must show the court that:

• There has been a material change in circumstances; or

• The child has reached the age of 12 and wants to change his or her primary caregiver; and

• The existing order must be modified to serve the best interest of the child

What is a material change in circumstances?

Except in cases where a 12-year-old (or older) child requests modification, it is necessary for the parents to demonstrate a material change in circumstances. In several decisions in the past, Texas courts have interpreted this phrase to mean a broad spectrum of important changes in life such as:

• Remarriage of either parent

Parental relocations

• Changes in employment status or decreases in wages

• Medical needs

• Drug or alcohol abuse by either parent

• Abuse or neglect of the child by either parent

Before a change to any child custody order is approved, the court must first find that a modified order would serve the best interests of the child. This is a complicated analysis that considers the personal and emotional needs of the child, the ability of each parent to fulfill those needs, the child's relationship to each parent, and other factors.

Speak to an attorney

If you feel that the child custody order in force no longer adequately meets the needs of your child or yourself, consult with an attorney. The experienced family law attorneys at Vernier & Associates, PLLC can assist you with obtaining an order that is workable for your family's new circumstances.