https://www.bryanfagan.com/site-search/?C=modifcationAll our lives changed over time. No matter how stable or consistent your life is you are sure to undergo some changes given the passage of time. For example, we all get older and as a result, our health needs to change. What may not have been a physical issue for you in your 30s may now be a concern in your 40s. On the other hand, what was a concern for you physically speaking in your 30s may have been improved due to lifestyle changes and is no longer a worry of yours now that you are in your 40s. Many of us have been fortunate enough to see the health of our children improve over time as they battled through childhood illnesses like colds and ear infections only to see those type of problems goes away as they get older.

Your family has likely changed during this time, as well. Babies are born sadly other people pass away. Kids start playing a sport and then stop due to a lack of interest. Our children pick up a sport and it becomes their number one interest, and you find yourself sitting on your backside most weekends in gymnasiums scattered all around the city of Houston. You may have started a new job in that job grew into a small business that you opened as a side hustle. Or, you may have relocated to find new work or start fresh after a divorce.

Whatever the specific circumstances that you are facing in your life, you need to understand that if you have a child custody order that is no longer fitting your family very well that you can modify or change that order. Modification of child custody orders takes place every day in Harris County and family courts across Texas. However, getting your modification approved by a court is not as easy as sending in the requested changes to a judge and having him or her rubber stamp them. Rather, very frequently this is a process where you and your Co-parent must negotiate with one another about tedious details involving the life of you and your children. These negotiations can get to the heart of the relationship that you have with your children and can alter, for better or worse the nature of that relationship. 

With so much at stake in this type of case, it is advisable to at least inquire about how an attorney who practices in family law can’t help you and your family 2 manage these changes and see to it that you can successfully negotiate for new custody orders if that is what your family needs. To begin today’s blog post I am going to discuss with you some of the advantages that having an attorney to assist you in your case can present not only in the short term but in the long-term period many people consider only these short-term financial implications of hiring a lawyer. However, the impacts of having an experienced family law attorney to help guide you in your case R frequently long-lasting and crucial to the development of your family and your relationship with your children.

The benefits of having an attorney in your child custody modification case

Figuring out that your current child custody orders no longer fit the needs of your family can be a bit of a disconcerting situation to be in. You and your family have operated under these orders as best as you can for four years and now find that something has changed in the life of your family that renders these orders no longer workable. We have already covered some of these circumstances and what they may be in the opening part of today’s blog post. Whatever your specific circumstance is it is not out of the question for a major overhaul to your child custody order may be needed. Or you may need a very slight change to account for an issue that arose organically as a result of the passage of time.

The first thing that I would look for when it comes to the need to possibly amend or change a child custody order is to first determine whether the current order is unworkable. This means familiarizing yourself with the order all over again. I always recommend to people that they have a copy of their court order at home either on their computer or a physical copy in their desk drawer that they can refer to. This way you can know for certain what the order says and will not be in a position where you thought the order said one thing when it said something else. The last thing you want to do is go through the trouble of worrying about the order and get to the precipice of filing a modification case only to find that the order does not say what he thought that it did. Any money or time invested into going through and modifying the order would have been lost because you didn’t need to do all the worrying and stressing out, to begin with. 

Next, when you look at that order you need to determine what your role is when it comes to a particular facet of your Child’s life. If you are interested in becoming your child’s primary conservator, then you should view the order and look at it from the perspective of what rights do you have currently and what rights do you want to gain. There may be ways for you to increase your role in your child’s life without having to go through the court process. Realistically, this means discussing directly with your Co-parent each of your roles and raising your children and what, if anything, can be done to allow you to have an increased role in the life of your child. Many times, you will find that the orders are fairly clear about what your responsibilities are and what your Co-parent’s responsibilities are. However, in other situations, it may be that you all can manage a modification on your own that works well for your family and do not have to go through a formal modification process through the court.

Informal modification of a child custody order

As I was saying, it is possible to modify a child custody order in Texas without going through the courts. This is done all the time and families are just like yours. You and your Co-parent would have to work together to discuss the issues and first determine if there is an actual issue or not. For example, one or both of you may have been misreading an order and I’ve come to find out that what you believed was the case in terms of that order or requirement is not true. In that situation, you may be able to talk through a solution to the problem that does not involve going through court. 

So long as both of you can honor that agreement then this is an ideal scenario. You would be able to save the time associated with going through a court case. As I’m sure that you can remember from your initial child custody or divorce case the rest of your life does not come to a screeching halt when you file for a family law case. Just because it feels like to you the family law case is the only thing going on in the world that simply is not true for your entire life. Your job will still have an important say in how much free time you have. Your children’s activities are still going to be ongoing despite the family law case. Other family commitments, church commitments, and the list go on and on. The rest of your life will not come to us halt just because you file a family law case. By avoiding the filing of a family law case, you allow yourself to invest your time in other areas. 

Next, you can consider the stress in worry involved in a case. Even if you hire an experienced family law attorney to assist you in representation for a modification case there will undoubtedly be some worry associated with filing a modification. It is normal to have concerns over the money spent and finally filing the case in hiring a lawyer as well as the outcome and negotiation process. Depending on the circumstance that you are attempting to modify the difference between winning and losing a modification case can have a profound impact on your relationship with your children now and in the future. This is enough to worry any sensible parent. However, if you and your Co-parent can work out an agreement together you may not only be able to solve your current problem, but you may be able to avoid feature issues due to opening up the lines of communication.

I think this is an under-discussed yet very important topic. Many times, you and your Co-parent may become comfortable with your court orders to the point where you find that weeks or even months go by without speaking with one another period on some level you may find that this is a good thing given the nature of your relationship together. Simply avoiding the conversation is a great way to avoid disagreements with one another that can lead to animosity and difficulty when it comes to Co-parenting. To that end, avoiding interaction can be a good thing in some regards. However, in many other ways not having the ability to interact with your Co-parent is a negative especially when your child could stand to benefit from the two of you interacting on a more regular basis.

For example, let’s suppose that your child had been struggling in school and the schoolteacher and counselors had sat the two of you down and asked that you coordinate with one another when it comes to your child completing homework assignments before the next day. Depending on the nature of your custody schedule you may find yourself in a position where it is difficult to be able to do always do that because your child goes back and forth in between your homes frequently. Therefore, being able to make sure that the other parent knows how much of an assignment has been completed and any issues that child is having and completing the assignment is extremely important. 

The inability to interact with your Co-parent to the point where you all can’t even discuss issues like this is a major sign that your Co-parenting skills need to be worked on immediately. It is not necessarily your fault that your skills have deteriorated. However, if you find yourself hesitating to even bring up a potentially difficult subject with your Co-parent like coordination of homework then you’re in a position where you need to consider what can be done to improve those skills. I find that working together to perform a slight modification of your child custody orders can be just what you need to enhance those skills and rebuild the muscle memory it takes to be able to discuss important issues with your Co-parent. 

However, there is a downside to informal modification of child custody orders. The main difficulty that I can see is that instead of having a court order that is signed off on by a judge, an informal modification of a child custody order does not carry any legal weight. This means that, at any time, you or your Co-parent could decide to go back on your word and refused to honor the handshake agreement you had on this modification. Legally speaking there is nothing wrong with this. It may frustrate or even anger you, but you are Co-parent and you are only legally bound to follow the orders that are outlined in the child custody agreement signed by the judge. 

Therefore, if you need something more definite and certainly more enforceable in the future then a child custody agreement that is informally made with your Co-parent may not be for the best. in that case, you should consider your options when it comes to modifying a court order by going through the legal process. However, this does not need to be an intimidating process and can be something that you manage effectively along with your attorney.

What does it take to modify a child custody order?

Ultimately, this is the question that you need to ask yourself. When it comes to modifying a court order you need to be aware of what it takes to achieve your goal and modify the order. A modification case is not like a divorce case. You are not guaranteed to be able to modify your child custody order simply because you ask for the change period rather, the judge has to find that certain legal requirements are met. Let’s walk through those legal requirements as we close out today’s blog post.

Above all else, a judge needs to find that the requested modification it is in the best interests of your children. You will probably recall if the best interest standard was utilized in your initial child custody case whether it was a divorce or straight child custody case. The best interest of your child standard is one that is utilized throughout the country to help families and decide about whether proposed changes or court orders are set up to serve the needs of your child both now and in the future. Family court judges are given a great deal of discretion when it comes to considering the best interest of your child. While there are factors a judge can look to when it comes to determining the best interest of your child your judges’ specific experiences and the specific circumstances of your child will be incredibly important when determining whether a proposed change is in your child’s best interest. 

Additionally, when it comes to changes in the form of a child custody modification you need to be aware that the court will also be looking to a specific legal standard to determine if it can even consider the changes that you are proposing. That standard is called material and substantial change. Specifically, the judge will need to determine whether a material insubstantial change has occurred in the circumstances of you, your Co-parent, or your children that would necessitate the proposed changes. Material and substantial means a significant change in one of your lives. This should give you an indication that a court will not be willing to amend or change a child custody order yes, the circumstances absolutely and overwhelmingly call for it. However, if you and your Co-parent can negotiate between yourselves before seeing a judge you all can reach modification based on pretty much whatever circumstances you would like so long as they are in the best interests of your children.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about her family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.