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What if I need to modify a child custody order?

Texas courts issue child custody orders after carefully considering whether they promote the best interests of the children. However, circumstances can change. Whether the changes happen to the child's needs or the parents' circumstances, you may find yourself needing to ask the court to modify the terms of the original order.

It is important to get an official modification. Parents who just change the arrangements informally can later find themselves facing problems if the other parent no longer wants to go along with the change.

Submitting an agreement

If both parents do agree on the proposed modifications, they can work with their attorneys to draft an agreement and submit it to the court for approval. Judges tend to approve agreements unless they see glaring red flags or obvious unfairness.

Asking for modification

If, however, only one parent wants the changes, he or she can submit a request for modification. Like a modification agreement, a request goes to the same court that issued the original divorce, unless the child now lives in a different district.


To succeed in getting a modification, the requesting parent needs to show the changes would be in the child's best interests. In addition, he or she must show one of the following:

  • The parent's circumstances have changed substantially
  • The child is at least 12 years old and has stated a wish for the requested changes

If the request is based on the child's wishes, you can expect the judge to schedule an interview with the child, without the parents' presence in order to avoid pressure. This is just to help the judge determine whether the child really wants the changes. However, the judge will make the final determination of whether the changes would be good for the child; he or she will not just rely on what the child expresses.

Typical changes in parental circumstances that can warrant a modification include unemployment, change of income, a medical condition that affects the ability to care for the child, remarriage or having to move due to work. A parent may also seek a reduction or termination of the other parent's rights if he or she alleges the other parent behaves violently, suffers from substance addiction or has a criminal conviction.

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