Child custody arrangements are established during divorce proceedings, legal separations or at the request of parents who are not wed. However, as circumstances change over time, modifying these arrangements may become necessary to better serve children’s best interests.
By understanding the legal requirements and processes involved in modifying child custody orders and parenting plans, parents can more effectively navigate this complex area of family law and help to ensure the well-being of their children.
Understanding child custody
In Texas, the legal term for child custody is conservatorship. It encompasses two primary aspects: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody pertains to the right and responsibility to make important child welfare decisions, including:
- Religious upbringing
On the other hand, physical custody broadly refers to the right to have the child physically reside with a parent and the associated responsibilities for their day-to-day care.
Custody modifications refer to changes made to an existing child custody order. These modifications can encompass alterations to various aspects of custody arrangements, including physical custody, legal custody and parenting time schedules. Modifying a custody order requires specific conditions to be met, helping to ensure that the proposed changes align with the child’s best interests.
What guides the court’s decision when considering custody modification?
Texas courts prioritize the child’s best interests when considering contentious custody modifications. (Parents can alternatively mutually agree upon changes and submit them to the court for formalization.) This is to say that the parent who is requesting a child custody modification in a contentious context must demonstrate that the proposed changes will better serve the child’s physical, emotional and developmental needs than the existing arrangement. This principle guides the decision-making process when evaluating custody modification requests.
For instance, if the custodial parent plans to relocate to a different city, state or country, this can significantly impact the existing custody arrangement. In such cases, the court may review the modification request to help ensure that the child’s best interests would still be met despite the geographical changes.
As children grow and develop, their needs evolve as well. If there has been a significant change in the child’s physical, emotional, educational or medical requirements, it may warrant a modification of the custody order.
Remember that the courts prioritize the child’s best interests above all else when navigating custody modifications. Therefore, you should seek experienced legal guidance to determine if your reasons are compelling enough to incentivize the court to review your custody arrangement or to approve a modification request by your co-parent.