Can Child Custody Be Changed?

When circumstances change in parents’ and children’s lives, sometimes, a custody arrangement should change, too.

At the time of a divorce in Texas, parents will need to work together to form a parenting plan, which outlines the parental responsibilities of each parent. While a parenting plan may be completely sensible at the time that it is enacted, circumstances change over time. If circumstances change, a judge may agree to modify a child custody order. Here is what you should know about when and how a child custody order can be changed in Texas.

Criteria for Modifying an Existing Child Custody Order

A post-judgment modification for a child custody order can be issued by a court when parents agree to the modification or one parent (who is requesting the modification) can prove that there has been a substantial or material change in circumstances. While what constitutes a material or substantial change in circumstances can vary dramatically, from one parent struggling with drug or alcohol abuse to a parent violating a current order, common examples include:

  • One parent is no longer able to provide for the child due to mental illness, a change in work schedule, relocation, or another factor;
  • There are allegations of child abuse, domestic abuse, or other criminal activities;
  • The child is requesting a change in custody and their opinion should be taken into consideration given the maturity and age of the child; or
  • One parent is taking on more parental responsibilities and wants to officially modify the order to reflect that.

How Does a Judge Make a Decision About Child Custody?

When a judge is making a determination about modifying a child custody agreement, regardless of what either parent wants, the judge will prioritize the best interests of the child. Even if there has been a material or significant change in circumstances, a judge will not grant a modification of a child custody order unless doing so is in the child’s best interests.

What if Parents Do Not Agree?

In situations in which both parents agree about the modification, they can jointly petition the court in order to get the order changed. This is typically a straightforward process, and, in most cases, the judge will grant the modification. If the modification is disputed, on the other hand, the process will be much more challenging. If parents cannot resolve the dispute through mediation, then they will need to go to court and each will need to present evidence to the judge in support of their side.