One of the most important issues to be resolved during a divorce is how child custody and visitation rights will be split between the separating parents. In most circumstances, certain presumptions under Texas law dictate that divorced parents should be considered joint managing conservators. This essentially means that both parents will have equal authority regarding the major decisions that may affect their child’s welfare – although the child custody order will likely state that the child shall spend a majority of his or her time living with one of the parents.
However, even after a child custody arrangement has been finalized with the court, a change in circumstances may call for a party to modify the child custody order. After all, what was once a good child custody plan can easily become more challenging as the child grows and years pass. For instance, the child may want to spend more time living with his or her other parent, or, one of the parents may get remarried.
Change in circumstances following a child custody order
First and foremost, law commands that the best interests of the child must always be the “primary consideration” of the court when making child custody determinations. Some of the factors that Texas courts look to when assessing the best interests of the child include, but are not limited to:
- The desires of the child.
- 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 stability of the child’s home.
- The parental abilities of those seeking custody.
However, when it comes to modifying an existing Texas child custody arrangement, not only must the modification be in the best interests of the child, but the parent seeking the modification must be able to show one of the following:
- That the child is at least 12-years-old and has expressed to the court which parent he or she prefers to have the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child.
- That the custodial parent who currently has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child has voluntarily surrendered the primary care of the child to another for at least six months.
- That there has been a material or substantial change in circumstances for either of the parents or child since the date of the child custody order, or the date of the mediated settlement agreement on which the order is based, whichever is earlier.
Ultimately, the law surrounding the modification of child custody arrangements in Texas is very complex and even the smallest of details can impact a court’s decision. Accordingly, if you are currently involved in a child custody dispute, it is best to seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney. A skilled attorney not only can help navigate confusing laws, but also make sure the process goes as smooth as possible, which is essential for the emotional well-being of the child.