There are four circumstances in which parents can modify the custodial arrangements (decision-making, where the child primarily resides, and visitation):
- By Agreement: If the parents agree to the change, they can send the judge an agreed order that contains the changes and, in nearly every case, the judge will sign it because it is the parents' agreement and the Texas Family Code encourages parents to reach agreements regarding their children.
- Change in Circumstances: If there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances that involves either parent or the child, a parent can ask the judge to change the custodial arrangements accordingly. The material and substantial change has to be one that was not anticipated at the time of the prior order. Moreover, the requested change must closely relate to the change in circumstances. In other words, if the other parent gets a DUI, it would be reasonable to ask the judge to prohibit that parent from driving with the child until safety measures (such as SoberLink or an interlock) can be put in place. However, it would not be reasonable, under those circumstances, to ask that the DUI parent be stripped of all visitation/possession rights.
- Voluntary Relinquishment: If the parent who has the exclusive right to designate the children's primary residence voluntarily lets the child live with the other parent for 6 months or more, then the other parent has the right to ask the judge to make the change permeant.
- Child's Preference: Once a child turns 12, the child can tell the judge which parent the child wants to primarily live with. This preference is not binding on the judge, but the older the child gets, the more persuasive it is.
Once the parent who wants to modify the custody arrangement proves one of the above elements, then that parent must convince the judge that the change that parent seeks to make will make things better for the child. There can be a material and substantial changein circumstances and the child can beg the judge to let the child switch parents, but if the judge is not convinced that switching parents will make the child's life better, the request will be denied.
We Help Parents Modify Custody Orders
As you can see, the legal requirements for a modification of the custodial arrangement are daunting. There ar emultiple elements to prove and that is best done by a person who is skilled at conveying stories and information to the court in a legally relevant manner.
If you need to modify the custodial arrangement, you need an attorney. We're here to help. Give us a call: 972-985-4448.