Posted by Ramos Law Group, PLLC | Family Law
Child custody court orders are final and legally binding. Fortunately, that does not mean that these orders cannot be modified. If you can show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances and convince a judge of that fact, you may be able to modify your child custody order. However, there are certain requirements that must be followed. One of those is when you are legally allowed to petition the court for a modification.
You Must Wait One Year to Modify Child Custody
If you want to petition the court to modify your child custody order, you must wait at least one year after the current order was issued. This waiting period applies even if you want to remove a geographic restriction contained in the original order. For example, a parent that does not have primary custody may be offered a job out of state. They could not petition the court to change the custody and visitation order for at least one year, even though visiting their child would be more difficult if they took the job.
While you must generally wait one year before modifying an order, there are exceptions to this. These are as follows:
The parent with primary custody is the one asking for the change, or they agree to the change,
The current environment the child is in is a danger to their physical safety or emotional development, or
The parent with primary custody has placed the child in another person’s primary care and possession for a minimum of six months. This does not apply when the parent with primary custody is in active military service.
Regardless of the reason why you are pursuing a modification, you must support your argument with specific facts. You must state these facts in a sworn document and attach it to the Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship.
What Happens After You File the Petition?
After filing your petition to modify child custody, a judge will review your sworn statement and your petition. If the judge believes that the facts in your declaration would qualify for a modification, if true, they will schedule a hearing. On the other hand, if the judge does not believe the statements in your declaration would warrant a modification, even if true, they will dismiss the case.
It is important to know that at this point, the judge may also determine whether or not the petition is frivolous. If they determine that it is, they may hold you responsible for paying the other party’s attorneys fees.
You Need Evidence to Pursue a Modification
The majority of people who pursue a child custody modification face an uphill battle. Cases that involve child abuse or addiction are often fairly straightforward, but most modification cases fall into a gray area. You should not pursue a modification until you have evidence that your former spouse is not complying with the current agreement or that a change is necessary. This evidence could include text and email messages, a list of visitations the other parent has missed, or school records that reflect tardies and absences. Evidence will help you avoid a he-said, she-said situation that makes a case very difficult to prove.
Pursuing a Child Custody Modification Can Be Risky
Although there are times when you should pursue a child custody modification, it is important to realize that doing so does not come without its risks. If the judge finds that there has not been a substantial change in circumstances, or that you are simply acting maliciously towards your former spouse, they will hold that against you. In these instances, a judge can order one party to pay the legal fees of the other side, or the petitioner may end up with an arrangement that is less desirable than what they had before.
Sometimes, parents need a child custody arrangement that is highly tailored to their very specific situation. When a judge is reviewing the child custody arrangement, they may change it so it no longer reflects those unique provisions.
Our Child Custody Lawyers in Houston Can Help with Your Modification
It is possible to modify your child custody order if there has been a significant change in circumstances, but it is not easy. At Ramos Law Group, PLLC, our seasoned Houston child custody lawyers can help you navigate the process, advise you of the requirements you must fulfill, and give you the best chance of a successful outcome. Call us today at 713-225-6200 or contact us online to schedule a consultation and to learn more about your legal options.