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Can one modify an existing Texas child custody order?

"There is no constant but change." So goes a tried and true piece of conventional wisdom. Basically, because time is continually passing, everything in the world changes, whether it wants to or not. The same may be said for the circumstances Texas residents find themselves in after a divorce or break-up of a domestic relationship. Whether it is a new job, or a need to move to different hours of work, or to a different residence, the situations of both parties to a family law case can change, sometimes dramatically. Because of this, what may have been the best solution at the time a decision was made on issues like child custody or visitation may no longer be viable.

When this occurs, what are parents to do? First off, it should be noted that if parents can agree on a change, they are usually free to implement it, though it may sometimes be in their best interests to memorialize it in the form of a court order so that there are no misunderstandings later. If there is no agreement, however, it is not impossible for one party to request a change, but there are some facts that he or she will have to show to the satisfaction of the court.

To be granted a change in conservatorship or possession (which are Texas legal terms for legal and physical custody), the moving party (i.e. the one who is asking for the change) must show that the circumstances of either the child, the conservator (custodial parent) or someone else affected by the order have substantially and materially changed since the entry of the original custody order. The court may also grant such a modification if the child is 12 years old or older and has made his or preference for primary custody known to the judge, or if the custodial parent has given the child to another person for at least six months. Of course, to modify a child custody order for any reason, the court must find that such a change is in the best interests of the child.

What constitutes a substantial and material change may be based upon a subjective standard, which may need to be shown through testimony and other evidence. Because of this, those seeking a child custody modification may wish to consider seeking the help of an experienced legal professional.

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