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When Can Parents Modify Child Custody Orders?

Managing child custody is one of the most challenging aspects of raising a child without a co-parent in the home. Even if you and your co-parent reached a custody agreement that satisfied you both and met your children’s needs, changed circumstances and your children’s evolving needs could spur a desire to modify your current arrangement.

If you and your co-parent agree about revising your custody arrangements, our child custody modification lawyers can help you present a revised document to the court. If you are in conflict with your co-parent, one of our capable child custody attorneys at Angela Faye Brown & Associates can argue strenuously for your desired outcome. Based in Houston and Austin, we work with parents throughout the surrounding areas in Texas.

Timing Is Important

Custody agreements are court orders. Whether you, your co-parent or both of you want to modify the agreement, you must seek court approval. Courts make all decisions regarding children based on their analysis of what is in the children’s best interests. Generally, courts value stability and structure and believe they support a child’s healthy development. Courts are unlikely to look favorably on frequent requests for custody modifications.

Texas Family Code §156.102(a) discourages a parent from bringing a custody modification request within one year of the most recently issued custody order. The law provides only three justifications for seeking a custody modification within a year:

  1. The parent with primary custody consents.
  2. The parent with primary custody voluntarily relinquished custody for at least six months.
  3. The child’s physical or mental health is endangered in the current residence.

Note that military deployment does not constitute a voluntary relinquishment of custody, and a parent cannot use a co-parent’s deployment as a reason to seek an early modification. A proactive Houston attorney can review the situation and help a parent determine whether a court is likely to hear an early request for child custody modification in their specific case.

Courts Favor Uncontested Modifications

Assuming a reasonable time has passed since the last custody order, courts generally support modifications that both parents agree are desirable. The parents can revise an existing order to reflect a custody arrangement that meets their current needs. A knowledgeable child custody modification lawyer in Houston can formalize their agreement into a proposed order that they can then submit to the court.

Although courts give deference to parents’ agreements on these issues, the deference is not complete. A judge will review any proposed order or modification to ensure that it conforms with the child’s best interests. A court can refuse an uncontested modification if it does not appear to support the child’s well-being.

Contested Modifications

When one parent seeks a custody modification despite the objections of the other, the modification request is contested. In contested modifications, the children’s wishes can be a factor in a court’s decision. The impact of the child’s opinion depends on their age when the court receives the request to modify. An experienced lawyer can help a parent understand how a child’s preference might influence a decision regarding a contested custody modification in Houston.

If a noncustodial parent seeks primary physical custody of a child who is 12 or older and the child supports the move, a court will consider the child’s wishes. However, the court will rule in accordance with what it believes is in the child’s best interests, even if that means depriving the child of their preferred residence.

When a child is younger than 12, the parent requesting the revision must prove that a substantial change in circumstances requires the modification. The change could be in the custodial parent’s circumstances, such as:

  • A substance abuse problem
  • Conviction of domestic violence
  • Loss of a home
  • Any similar event

A change in the child’s circumstances could be a mental or physical health condition or similar significant development. Whatever the changed circumstance, the parent must prove the custody modification supports the child’s best interests.

Seek Counsel From An Experienced Attorney

If you wish to adjust an existing custody order, the law gives you the right to seek a modification. If your co-parent seeks a revision but you object, the burden is on the co-parent to prove that the change is necessary and serves the child’s best interests.

Whether you wish to propose a custody modification or defend against one, one of our Houston child custody modification lawyers can provide sound legal advice and committed advocacy. Request an appointment to speak with a dedicated attorney at Angela Faye Brown & Associates today. Call our Houston office at 281-975-0307.