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When child custody arrangements are determined, the court uses the best interest of the child standard as its foundational guidance. The court works hard to consider all the factors that could impact the best interest of the child in establishing child custody arrangements, referred to as “conservatorship,” “possession,” or “access,” in Texas. Sometimes, however, for a variety of reasons, a parent may want to revisit the custody arrangement and make a modification. While child custody modifications are permitted, they will only be allowed under certain circumstances.

Child Custody Modifications

A parent must file a “Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship” in order to request a change to an already existing child custody order. If all affected individuals agree to the requested changes, it is likely the court will simply grant the request. If, however, the other parent does not agree to the requested modification, or “contests” the case, then a hearing will be set in order for the court to hear testimony from both sides before deciding whether to grant or deny the modification request.

It should be noted, however, that Texas court will only grant child custody modifications under certain circumstances. These circumstances include:

  • There has been a material and substantial change concerning the circumstances of the child, a conservator of the child, or others impacted by the order since the date of the current order or the date of the settlement agreement, which the current order is based on, signing (whatever is the earliest of the two);
  • The child, who must be 12 years or older, has expressed a preference for one person to have the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence; and
  • The current conservator with the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence has voluntarily relinquished primary care and possession of the child to someone else for six months or more (military service being the exception to this).

There is no precise definition of what would constitute a “material and substantial” change for purposes of meriting a child custody modification, but Texas courts have recognized a number of circumstances as qualifying under such terminology. Evidence of child abuse or domestic violence incidences could, of course, merit revisiting a child custody arrangement. Other material and substantial changes that may merit a modification could include those life changes that would make a current child custody schedule impractical or downright unworkable. For instance, if a parent relocates or makes a major move, then a modification may be merited.

Sometimes, a child will express a preference for who is in charge of determining their primary residence. In order for a court to consider such a preference, the child must be at least 12 years old. The judge will hold a private interview with the child in chambers to evaluate the maturity and judgment of the child. The judge is not obligated to grant the requested modification and if the court has reason to believe that the request is not in the best interest of the child, then it will be denied.

Family Law Attorneys

If you need to pursue a child custody modification request, let our knowledgeable team at Navarrete & Schwartz assist you. We are proud to serve the residence of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.