A divorce decree will stipulate child custody arrangements. But what if a parent needs to change a visitation or child custody order? Certain factors typically must exist before one is granted.
A divorce is always stressful; it involves making many different decisions. It doesn’t matter whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. Couples need to divide and distribute property and assets and figure out child custody arrangements.
After such decisions are made and a divorce decree is finalized, the environment usually stabilizes and both parties begin to adapt to a new life. But what happens when a parent needs to change a visitation or child custody order?
Generally, a parent who wishes to modify an existing child custody order must petition the court. However, there are certain factors that must exist before a court will grant a change in present custody arrangements.
Generally, courts will only modify such orders if the change in custody or visitation requested is in the “best interests of the child.” This typically means that the change must be one that best serves the child’s physical and mental needs.
Many states, however, require the consideration of additional criteria. In Texas, for instance, courts consider the following scenarios:
Material change in circumstances affecting the child or parent
Texas family law courts will consider a child custody modification if there is a substantial change in circumstances. Common examples the court will look at include but are not limited to:
- A remarriage
- A disability
- A child’s mistreatment or abuse
- A criminal conviction
- A domicile move
Request by the child
Many Texas family law courts will also consider the wishes of the children-typically individuals 12 years of age and older-when determining whether to modify an existing child custody agreement.
Children who want to live with a different parent or wish to change a present custody arrangement will be interviewed in a private setting to assess their desires. Courts will consider the information gathered during the interview when making the final decision.
Custodial parent’s relinquishment of custody to another
Courts will also modify a child custody agreement if a custodial parent wishes to relinquish the care and custody of the child to the other parent or another party, such as the child’s grandparent. The relinquishment must generally occur at least 6 months prior to the request for modification before a court will grant the change.
Legal assistance in Texas
Requesting a modification of a child custody arrangement is complex and includes various different procedural steps. If you are considering such action, consulting with an experienced family law attorney is the first step. A lawyer knowledgeable in child custody matters in your jurisdiction can offer a more thorough overview of the law and solutions that best fit your individual circumstances.