Child Support

Common Reasons to Modify a Child Custody Agreement in Texas

Jad J. Stepp

Jad J. Stepp is the managing shareholder of Stepp & Sullivan, P.C., a Houston-based firm that focuses on probate and elder law matters, as well as estate planning, personal injury, aviation, and maritime litigation. For over 35 years he has been trying lawsuits in both federal and state court and has been the lead trial lawyer in complex litigation in many areas.
Jad J. Stepp

When parents dispute child custody in Houston — whether because they’re in the midst of a divorce or wish to modify an existing agreement — the Texas family court system focuses on protecting the interests of the children named in the child custody order. An agreement that benefits the children may be difficult to change because the court wants to maintain consistency and stability in their life. 

When Should I Seek a Child Custody Modification?

There are three main reasons parents may wish to modify a custody agreement, including:

  1. One parent relinquished the child to the other parent for six or more months
  2. The child filed a written request to live with the other parent once they reach a certain age
  3. There have been material and substantial changes in the circumstances that warrant a modification of the existing child custody agreement

The third reason is the most common reason parents seek modifications of custody agreements from the court. Circumstances may change in a variety of ways that could impact their child’s life, such as a parent moving to another state to pursue a new career or becoming involved in a criminal proceeding. 

A parent’s change of schedule or residence may impact a child’s life in many ways, including taking them away from their friends at school or reducing the amount of time they spend with their custodial parent. Child custody modifications are sought for many reasons, but they are not always granted. The modification must be in the child’s best interest.

When is a child custody modification in the child’s best interest?

In general, the court will not make changes to an agreement that is working well for all parties. The court will not be inclined to change custody agreements that protect the child’s best interests for seemingly frivolous reasons, so the judge will scrutinize the reasons parents give for requesting a modification. A change in a custody agreement can substantially interrupt a child’s life and well-being, which is why family court judges must consider changes carefully. 

If Your Child is in Danger in Her Current Household

If your child is in danger with his or her other parent, you should seek a modification to your child custody order immediately. With evidence that the child’s current situation could lead to physical or emotional harm, the court will be inclined to make adjustments.

The court may consider:

  • Whether there is domestic violence taking place in the child’s home
  • Whether the child is in immediate danger
  • Whether the child has asked to leave the home where the danger is present

After Either Parent’s Physical Relocation

A court will consider modifying a child custody order if either parent will relocate to a distant location. Before doing so, the court will consider the following:

  • The motivation of the parent who is relocating
  • How the move impacts the visitation schedule
  • Whether the parents communicated a way to make the visitation schedule work
  • Whether the move will interrupt the child’s life (after school activities, friendships, sports, etc.)

When Your Ex-Spouse Ignores Your Visitation Schedule

The court may consider changing the child custody agreement if one parent consistently rejects the visitation schedule. When a parent does not cooperate with visitation, the court considers the following before making any changes to custody:

  • Whether the parents reached an agreement in the parenting plan
  • Reasons why the current visitation schedule was not followed
  • How the parents communicate with each other

If the current custody order provides for the child’s best interest and doesn’t disrupt the child’s day-to-day life, it may not be possible to change the agreement. On the other hand, it does not take an extreme situation to sway the judge into modifying your child custody agreement. Talk to a skilled divorce attorney with Stepp & Sullivan for guidance on appealing to the court for a change in your child custody order.

Child Custody Modification Lawyers in Houston

At Stepp & Sullivan, PC, we have more than 70 years of combined legal experience. Our team is composed of seasoned litigators and problem solvers who know how to get the best results for each client. Call (713) 336-7200 or complete our contact form for your free consultation.

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