What to Expect During a Custody Modification Case
Posted by Ramos Law Group, PLLC | Child Custody
No matter what your final divorce decree says about child custody and all other child-related provisions, you should be aware that the arrangement is almost always subject to modification. You might assume that the status quo will remain workable, but much can change in the months and years after conclusion of your divorce. In fact, it is difficult to imagine how your situation would not be different over time.
Fortunately, Texas child custody laws provide a process for modifying an existing custody order. A parent seeking the change must comply with the legal requirements, since altering custody without court permission is essentially breaking the law. The other co-parent may have reasons for requesting that things stay the same, potentially leading to bitter disputes.
There are strategies for resolving custody modifications, though you should be prepared for the possibility that you may go to court. You can feel confident that your rights as a parent will be protected when you retain a Texas child custody attorney, but it is also helpful to know what to expect during a custody modification case.
Modification Centers on Two Factors
The key factors a court reviews when determining whether to approve a modification include:
- Reasons for Modification: A judge will only consider altering the custody arrangement if there is sufficient proof that the parent seeking it has experienced a material, substantial change in circumstances. A temporary or minor need to deviate is typically not enough. For instance, the co-parent who is petitioning for modification must have evidence regarding the need to move a significant distance, such as for employment or family reasons.
- Best Interests of the Child: You may recall that there were several factors that the court addresses when dealing with custody issues in your divorce case. These points form the child’s best interests standard, which remains a paramount consideration when assessing a custody modification. The fact that a parent has reasons for modification does NOT mean the change will serve the child’s best interests.
There are Non-Court Options for Resolving a Custody Modification Case
Another aspect of your divorce case also applies to modifying child support: Co-parents always have the freedom to enter into an agreement with respect to issues involving minor children, including custody changes. The court will still need to review your agreement to ensure it complies with the child’s best interests, but your Texas child custody lawyer can handle the necessary tasks and enter the appropriate order.
Note that the judge may order co-parents to participate in mediation to resolve differences over custody modifications. During these proceedings, you sit down with a trained mediator in an informal setting to discuss your dispute. Often, mediation can get you closer to an accord even when you did not think agreement was possible. If you are unable to compromise, you can still take your case before the judge for a hearing.
Hearings on Child Custody Modification in Texas
Co-parents who are at a standstill on changing custody must go through a proceeding before one can get court approval on modification. The hearing is similar to a trial, so there are several stages that generally work as follows:
- The parent petitioning for a custody modification must have evidence regarding a material, substantial change in circumstances as noted by the standard above. The petitioner must also show that the alteration to custody serves the child’s best interests.
- The other co-parent, as respondent, will have the opportunity to present his or her own case against custody modification. If you are in this position, your goal would be contesting the necessity of the change AND how a modification would contradict the child’s best interests.
- After consideration of the evidence and testimony, the judge will deliberate on the modification and whether it would be in the child’s best interests. The decision will become part of a new court order which is binding on both co-parents.
Keep in mind that there are additional implications when the court grants custody modification. Such a change will usually mean the terms of visitation must also be altered, and it may be necessary to make adjustments to child support.
Contact a Texas Child Custody Lawyer for More Information
This overview is helpful in terms of what to expect during a custody modification case, but you are in a better position to obtain a favorable outcome when you work with an experienced attorney. Our team at The Ramos Law Group, PLLC is ready to support your needs, so please contact us to schedule a consultation at our offices in Houston, TX. Once we review your circumstances, we can provide additional details on the process.