After going through a difficult divorce or child custody case, it can be difficult to think about going back to court in order to ask for a change of custody. Yet there are many reasons that one or both parents might want to — or might need to — ask a Texas court to make changes to an existing child custody order.

Asking the court to make child custody changes, or the order establishing conservatorship or possession and access will only result in a change to the court order in certain circumstances specified by the Texas Family Code. Generally speaking, circumstances must have changed significantly since the original order was entered, or another major change must have occurred. Our child custody lawyers in Dallas can provide you with the information you need.

Modification and the Change of Custody

If you need to ask a court to modify your existing child custody order, what you will need to do is prove that there are grounds for modification of an order establishing conservatorship or possession and access. To be clear, under Texas law, child custody is known as conservatorship, possession, and access. These terms refer to the parent’s right to make significant or important decisions about the child’s upbringing, as well as the parent’s right to spend time with the child and to exercise day-to-day parental caretaking functions for the child.

The process for changing the terms of conservatorship, possession, and access is known as modification.

Three Primary Situations in Which a Court Will Modify Custody

In order to modify an order that appoints a conservator, or to modify the terms and conditions of the conservatorship or possession of and access to the child, the party seeking the modification must show that the change would be in the best interests of the child and that one of the following three grounds for modification exist:

  1. A material and substantial change in circumstances has occurred for the child, conservator, or another affected party since the time of the original order or the mediation or collaborative law settlement that outlined conservatorship terms and conditions
  2. The child has expressed a preference to the judge for a primary residence with a particular parent and the child is at least 12 years old
  3. The conservator who currently has the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence has relinquished primary care and possession of the child to another party for six months or more

While the latter two grounds for modification are relatively clear, the Texas Family Code does not provide examples of scenarios that might constitute a material and substantial change in circumstances. Examples might include a serious or disabling illness (affecting one of the parents or the child), a required work relocation, an act of family violence, or a parent’s incarceration.

Contact a Dallas Child Custody Attorney for Assistance

If you have questions about whether you are eligible to seek a modification of child custody, you should seek advice from our Dallas child custody attorneys as soon as possible. We can assess your case, including concerns about whether you or your child has experienced a material and substantial change in circumstances, and we can help you to seek a modification. Contact Orsinger, Nelson, Downing, and Anderson, LLP for help with your case.

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