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Child custody orders: Things to know about modification

When you decided to file for divorce in a Texas court, you wanted to make sure that your children’s best interests were the central focus of all proceedings. You understood that your decision was going to affect their lives, but you wanted to make the transition as painlessly as possible. 

You also understood that once the judge overseeing your case issued a child custody order, you and your ex would both have an obligation to adhere to the terms. In fact, the only way to change the game plan would be to seek modification of the order, and even then, you’d still be bound to adhere to the existing terms unless and until the court granted a modification request.

When the court issues a custody order

When a Texas family court approves or makes decisions regarding child custody, it does so through careful and thorough review of a specific case. While there are state guidelines, a family court judge can make decisions based on the merits of an individual case. If there is a court order in place, it’s because the terms of the order are what the court agreed to or determined was best for your kids.

Do not take changes lightly

If you plan to seek modification of a child custody order, you’ll have the task of showing evidence of need to make the changes. Even if you and your co-parent both want to change the terms of the court order, you must convince the court that there is a legitimate reason to do so.

Examples of legitimate reasons

Perhaps you are preparing to start a new job, and its location is farther away than your previous place of employment. This change will impede your ability to arrive at the agreed-upon place and time to exchange custody with your ex. This type of situation is an example of what the court might consider a legitimate reason to modify a custody agreement.

Other just causes might include issues such as suspicion that your children are at risk when they are with their other parent. A co-parent’s death would also be reason to modify an existing court order. Any issue that makes it impractical or impossible to adhere to the terms of an existing court order may also be reason to seek modification.

Acting without taking proper legal steps

Unless you file a petition to formally request modification of a child custody order, and the court grants the petition, you’re not permitted to make changes on your own. For instance, if you have a job offer in another state and are planning to relocate, you may not be able to do so without first seeking modification of your court order.

If a parent changes the terms of a court order without going through the state-approved legal process to do so, a judge can hold that parent in contempt of court. This is one of many reasons it’s always best to play by the rules, keeping in mind that, when all is said and done, you want what is best for your kids and are willing to do what is necessary for their sake.

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