What parents need to know about modifying child custody in Texas

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While divorce can certainly be an emotional experience, it is important for those going through divorce to avoid letting these emotions overshadow the needs of their children. Likewise, it is crucial for these parents to remember that child-related issues do not always end when the divorce is finalized or a child-custody order is entered. Indeed, parents often have to work together to raise their children for several years after divorce.

However, as the years go by, many parents realize that a change in circumstances may require a modification to their child-custody arrangement. In situations such as these, Texas law outlines how child custody - otherwise known as conservatorship - can be amended to ensure the well-being of the children is protected

Texas law regarding modification of child custody

In many cases, the modification of a Texas child-custody order only occurs following a material and substantial change in circumstances for either the child or a conservator. Importantly, in these situations, if a parent cannot show a material or substantial change, his or her petition to modify custody will be denied. Some common changes in circumstances that may meet this threshold include:

  • Remarriage of one of the parents
  • Mistreatment of the child by a parent or step-parent
  • A change in the child's home surroundings or a relocation of the child
  • A parent becomes otherwise unsuitable to exercise custody

Notably, though, this list is by no means an exhaustive one, nor do these particular changes in circumstances guarantee a modification. In fact, a Texas court is not restricted to a set of definite guidelines when examining potential changes in circumstances, and instead must analyze the facts of each situation individually.

However, even after a material or substantial change in circumstances has been found, the proposed custody modification must still be in the best interest of the child before it will be granted. Indeed, Texas law states that the best interest of the child "shall always be the primary consideration" during child-custody disputes. When examining the best interest of the child, Texas courts typically review a non-comprehensive list of relevant factors, otherwise known as the "Holley" factors. These factors include:

  • The desires of the child
  • The parental abilities of those seeking custody
  • The emotional and physical needs of the child, now and in the future
  • The emotional and physical danger to the child, now and in the future
  • The programs available to those seeking custody that may assist in promoting the best interest of the child
  • The stability of the child's home
  • The plans for the child by those seeking custody
  • Any actions, or omissions, by a parent that may show the existing parent-child relationship is not appropriate
  • Any excuses for such acts or omissions

It is important to mention, however, that there are other issues that may come into play when a modification of child custody is requested. For instance, if the custodial parent has abandoned a child for at least six months, or if the child is at least 12-years-old and has expressed a parental preference, the court may be required to consider an amendment to a custody order.

Given the myriad of issues that may present themselves, a parent should always seek the counsel of an experienced child custody attorney if they find themselves in such a dispute. A knowledgeable attorney can help explain your options and assist in ensuring your rights are protected.

The law firm of Joseph Indelicato, Jr., P.C., represents people in Houston and the surrounding parts of Texas, including Sugar Land, Missouri City, Richmond/Rosenberg, Katy, Bellaire, Pearland, Alvin, Pasadena, Baytown, La Porte, Galveston, Texas City, League City, Clear Lake, Friendswood, Webster, as well as all cities within Harris County, Fort Bend County, Brazoria County and Galveston County.