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Can I Modify My Texas Child Custody Agreement to Get More Time with My Child?

Posted on in Custody

In the state of Texas, modifying an existing child custody agreement can only be done under limited circumstances. According to the Texas Family Code, Chapter 156, a child custody agreement can be modified if the following occur:

  • The circumstances of the child or parent(s) have substantially changed since the original court order agreement was finalized;
  • The child is at least 12 years old and has requested a change in the agreement;
  • The custodial parent has voluntarily relinquished care and custody to the other parent.

Modification to your court ordered child custody agreement is much more complicated than simply changing the visitation schedule. You and the other parent or guardian will have to go before a judge, who will evaluate the changed circumstances and make a decision based on what is in the best interests of the child. In the best possible scenario, both parents will agree to a change in the child custody agreement, in which case they will present the judge with an agreed-upon signed parenting plan. In the instance that both parties cannot agree, you should seek the help of an experienced Dallas, Texas family lawyer, who will do everything possible to ensure the best outcome for you, the other parent and, most importantly, your child.

Starting the Child Custody Orders Modification Process

The very first thing you need to do when trying to modify your child custody agreement is file a Petition To Modify The Parent-Child Relationship. You will do this whether or not you and the other parent agree to a change. You will need to file the orders at the county clerk's office in which your original orders were filed. If you have lived in a different county for more than six months, you can request that the case be transferred to your new home county; however, there is no guarantee that your request will be granted.

Next, you must then notify the other party of the request for modification. Again, whether or not they agree to it, they must respond by either:

  • Signing a Waiver of Citation in front of a notary;
  • Voluntarily filing an Answer; or
  • Receiving Service of Citation by an official process server.

If both parties agree, together you can draw up and then sign an Order In Suit To Modify The Parent-Child Relationship, which will outline the changes in the old child custody agreement. Once signed by both parties, you will need to set a hearing with the judge through your county clerk's office. Be sure to let the clerk know that the order is uncontested, as many counties have special court dockets for uncontested cases. If the judge agrees to the new orders, he or she will sign them, thereby making them legal and final.

What if Both Parties Do Not Agree to a Modification in Child Custody Orders?

If you and your child's other parent or legal guardian do not agree to a change in the child custody agreement, you will need to follow steps one and two above, and still schedule a hearing with a judge. However, because your case is contested, you will need to go into court prepared and armed with any documentation proving that the circumstances of the child or parent(s) has substantially changed, or the child has requested a change in the agreement. You will need to present your case in such a way that proves you are only acting in the best interests of your child, and not in your own interests or out of spite for the other parent.

In some cases, a judge will appoint an amicus attorney - an attorney whose job it is to assist the court in protecting the child's best interests - to advise the court on what they believe is in the best interests of the child. The judge may also order a forensic psychologist to perform a custody evaluation on both parents and advise the court on their opinion as well. Last but not least, if the child is old enough, the judge may consider his or her preferences regarding placement.

Obtaining Legal Help

Unless the other parent fully agrees to modify the child custody agreement and to come up with terms you can both agree on, hiring a Dallas, Texas family law attorney is the best thing you can do for you and your child. Child custody is not something that Texas courts take lightly - not when they decreed the initial orders, and not when they are asked to modify them. The outcome of the case can significantly affect the development and well being of your child, so it is important that you have an attorney on your side to help you present your case in the most effective way possible. To achieve the best outcome for you and your loved ones, contact the Clark Law Group at 469-906-2266 or online to schedule a consultation with one of our post-judgment attorneys today.

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