At the Key Law Office PC, we know your first concern is your child’s physical and emotional well-being. We are dedicated to making sure that the child custody arrangement in your case is in the best interest of your child.
Circumstances can change between the time an order is originally entered and the youngest child turns 18. Changes that frequently affect families include relocation, different financial needs, increased or decreased earnings, changing needs and interests of the children, and other personal issues. A modification may be necessary if your family’s needs and circumstances have changed over time. A lawsuit to change conservatorship (the designation of rights each parent has, such as who has the right to determine the primary residence of the children), to change visitation (the time each parent has to access the children), or to change child support are the three most common modifications that our firm handles. It may be time to consult an experienced attorney at Key Law Office, PC.
Modification of Conservatorship
In Texas, the term “conservatorship” is used to describe child custody. In most cases, parents are appointed as joint managing conservators, which means that they share the rights and duties regarding the child, even if the exclusive right to make certain decisions is given to one of the parents, and even if they don’t have equal amounts of time with the child. Other cases involve one parent being named a sole managing conservator and another the possessory conservator. Conservatorship is important because it will dictate which parent (or both) will decide where the child goes to school, what religion the child practices, what doctors the child sees and what school and non-school activities the child participates in.
As children age, many parents and children “outgrow” their prior custody orders and one or both parents may seek to modify the prior order. Texas state law only allows for modifications of custody orders to occur under specific instances. If a parent doesn’t fulfill the grounds for modification, they may not be allowed to bring a claim to the court. The following grounds are considered legitimate reasons to make modifications of custody:
- The circumstances of the child or one of the conservators or another party must have materially and substantially changed;
- A child over the age of 12 has told the judge in chambers that the child desires a change to the parent with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence; or
- The primary conservator has relinquished the care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months.
A material change of circumstance includes one or a combination of the following:
- One of the parents has remarried.
- A parent has a new job in a different location or state or a parent has the same job but has to relocate to keep working.
- A change in the income of a parent
- A parent becomes unemployed.
- One of the parents as a medical condition that makes it harder to take care of the child.
- Changes in a child’s school and activity schedule
Some additional change requests are normally brought by a parent who is trying to reduce or terminate the custody rights of the other parent. These change requests are based on a showing of
- Child abuse or family violence
- Alcohol or drug abuse of the parent
- That a parent has been convicted of a crime
It is important to note that in any modification, a Court will only grant a modification if it is in the “best interest of the child.”
Modification of Visitation
Your visitation agreement establishes the days of the week or times of the year that you or the other parent or conservator can see your children. However, as circumstances change, these agreements may need to be modified. Some common reasons people seek modifications of visitation include:
- Abusive actions from one or both parents
- Relocation of one or both parents
- Modifications to divorce settlement
- Abuse of stipulated visitation hours
Each of these circumstances might necessitate a change in the visitation hours of your prior order.
Modification of Child Support
The court can modify child support if the circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the earlier of the date of the order’s rendition; or
the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based; or it has been three years since the order was rendered or last modified and the monthly amount of the child support award under the order differs by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines.
A parent wanting a modification of his or her existing child support order needs to establish that he or she has the grounds to do so. Grounds are established by showing the court that you have a case that requires an additional look based on what is best for the child or children in question. You will need to provide documentation and information that establishes your need for the change. With some exceptions, these modification cases may only be filed in the following situations:
- The modification is being made due to substantial changes in financial capacities or needs
- The change in need is greater than a certain amount per month or percentage of the existing payment amount
- The existing arrangement was not created or modified in the last three years
The documentation required to modify an existing child support agreement can be vague, so it is best to consult with an experienced family law attorney. At Key Law Office, we will thoroughly review your case and discuss what kind of documentation we will need in order to satisfy the requirements of the court. We will then help you compile the information you have readily available, and we can request additional information from your co-parent. In instances where the other parent does not immediately turn over the requested information, we can obtain a court order.
We can help you determine whether you can and should file for a modification of a child support order. Additionally, we can help you defend yourself from a request that the child support order under which you are living should be modified.