Houston Child Custody Modification Lawyers

The Texas Family Code allows for either parent to file for a modification of a prior child custody order.

Perhaps you want to change or increase the amount of time that you spend with your children, particularly if circumstances in your life have changed. Our Houston modification lawyers can help you through the process of modifying child custody orders.

What Can Be Changed After a Divorce Decree Is Final?

Child custody, visitation, and child support can all be modified after a divorce decree is final. Either of the child’s parents can file a petition to modify with the court that issued the original custody order.

Certain other parties who are not the child’s parents can also file a petition for modification. These parties include:

  • Anyone who is listed as a party under the current custody order;
  • Certain blood relatives of the child if both of the child’s parents are dead or agree to the modification;
  • Certain blood relatives of the child if the child is currently in physically or emotionally harmful circumstances;
  • Non-foster parents who have had actual care, control, or possession of the child for at least six months; and
  • Individuals who have lived with the child and the child’s now-deceased guardian for at least six months.

There are different standards for modifying child custody and visitation orders versus modifying child support orders.

A Houston child custody modification attorney can help you navigate these standards.

When Will a Texas Court Modify a Custody or Visitation Order?

The court will always decide custody or visitation modifications based on the child’s best interests. If you are filing a petition to modify, in addition to proving that the change is in the child’s best interests, you must show either:

  • The child is at least 12 years old and tells the judge that they want to change which parent is their primary caregiver;
  • There has been a material change in the circumstances of either the child, one of the parents, or anyone else who is affected by the custody order; or
  • The parent or other person with primary custody of the child has allowed someone else to be the child’s primary caregiver for at least six months.

While changes in circumstances are important, the ultimate deciding factor for the court is the best interests of the child.

Best Interests of the Child

Courts consider a variety of factors in determining whether custody and visitation changes are in the child’s best interest. A court may consider some or all of the following factors, depending on the situation:

  • The stability of each parent’s home, including who else lives in the home with each parent as well as things like each parent’s work schedule;
  • Each parent’s plans for meeting the child’s needs;
  • Actions by each parent that may indicate what kind of a relationship they have with the child;
  • The programs each parent has access to that can assist with meeting the child’s needs;
  • The child’s current and future needs;
  • What the child wants if the child is 12 years or older; and
  • Potential dangers to the child in either parent’s home.

The court usually considers all relevant circumstances to determine what is in the child’s best interests. A Houston modification lawyer like those at The Larson Law Office can help you prove that the custody changes you want to make are in your child’s best interests.

When Will the Court Modify a Child Support Order?

Under Texas law, the court may modify an order for child support, including medical and dental support, if:

  • The circumstances of either the child or another person who is affected by the order have materially and substantially changed; or
  • It has been three years or more since the last child support order was issued and following the Texas child support guidelines to determine a new support order would result in monthly support payments that are different from the current monthly payments by at least 20% or $100.

If the original child support agreement specifies a support payment amount that is not based on the Texas child support guidelines, however, you may modify the support order only if there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances.

There are two basic circumstances to modify custody orders:

  • First, a visitation order can be modified if the parents agree to the modification and the court finds it to be in the children’s best interest.
  • Second, a visitation order can be changed if a party shows that there has been a “material and substantial change” to the circumstances of the child or a parent. A material and substantial change can occur in a variety of contexts.

If you need to change your current situation regarding child custody or visitation, our family law attorneys can protect your interests and firmly advocate on your behalf in the courtroom for modifying child custody orders.

Contact Houston’s The Larson Law Office online or call (713) 221-9088 for a free case evaluation.

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What Qualifies as Material and Substantial Change?

The Texas Family Code does not define “material and substantial change”. Some examples of a “material and substantial” change of circumstances include changes to the home environment such as:houston child custody modification attorneys

  • When the child undergoes frequent moves;
  • Remarriage of a parent;
  • The violation of a geographic restriction by a parent;
  • Interference with visitation by a parent;
  • When the child’s age and needs change;
  • Parental conflict; and
  • Relocation of a parent.

If you are facing a dispute involving the modification of child visitation or custody orders, the Houston modification lawyers at the Larson Law Office can be of significant assistance to you in addressing these problems quickly and effectively.

What Else Do I Need to Know About a Texas Child Custody Modification?

If possible, before you contact an attorney, you should talk to the other parent or guardian about the modifications you want. The timeline for getting a modification varies depending on whether the other parent agrees to the change.

Agreed Modification

If everyone affected by the modification agrees to the changes you wish to make, you can cooperate in submitting the necessary documents to the court. You will need to file a petition to modify and a proposed modification order.

If you want to modify child support, you will also need to file a proposed child support order. A family law attorney can help you prepare and review your documents.

Next, you will file the documents in the county where your original child custody order was issued. After you and the other parent have signed all of the paperwork, you will have a hearing at which the judge will sign your proposed order if they feel the changes are in the child’s best interests. Once you file the signed order with the clerk, your modification is final.

Contested Modification

It is not always safe or possible to discuss a modification with your child’s other parent. Or maybe you have attempted to discuss a custody modification and the other parent will not agree to the changes.

A contested modification will most likely take longer than an agreed one. You and the other parent will probably need to attend mediation to see if you can reach an agreement. It is a good idea to talk to a Houston modification lawyer about a contested modification.

A family law attorney can help you negotiate with the other parent during mediation and, if necessary, prove to a judge that the changes you want to make will benefit your child.

Default Modification

You may also be able to modify your child custody order by default. A default modification can occur if the other parties to the original order do not respond to your modification petition.

Once the other parent has been served with the papers, they have 20 days plus the next Monday at 10 AM to file their answer. If they do not file an answer within this time, you may be able to finish your modification case by default.

However, if the respondent parent files an answer with the court at any time before your case is finished, you cannot finish the case by default and must proceed with either an agreed or contested modification.

Houston Modification Lawyers

If you want to know about your legal options about modifying a visitation order, speak to a committed, dedicated Houston child custody lawyer at The Larson Law Office. If you need to change your current child custody or visitation orders, our Houston modification attorneys can firmly advocate on your behalf.

What Makes The Larson Law Office Different

When you work with the Houston modification lawyers at The Larson Law Office, you will receive personalized legal help from an experienced family law attorney.

You can rest assured that your case will not be handed off to an assistant. There are many steps involved in changing a custody order, and our expert legal team is ready to help you through the process. Call us today for a free case evaluation at (713) 221-9088.

Other types of Family Law cases that we handle, include: