Circumstances often require a change in a Texas child custody order. Either parent, or another person with court-ordered custody or access, can file a legal petition to change an existing court order or agreement concerning custody, access and visitation.

Unless the parties agree to an order or agreement modification, a party must show to the court that the changes are in the best interests of the child. They also must demonstrate that the circumstances of the child, either parent or any person having legal rights to the child have materially and substantially changed.

Otherwise, a party can show that the person with legal custody allowed the petitioner to keep the child for at least six months. Or, the child is at least 12-yers-old and tells the judge that they want to live with the petitioner most of the time.

For custody orders that are under one year old, the petitioner must show that the child’s current environment impairs the child’s emotional development or endangers their physical health. Or, the parent or another person with custody agrees to the change, which must be in the child’s best interest. Otherwise, the parent or other person with custody allowed another person to have custody for at least six months and the modification is in the child’s best interest.

If the parties agree, the modification can be entered as an uncontested order and issued hearing. Alternatively, the petition will proceed like a lawsuit requiring notice to the other party and a hearing in court.

Because Texas must respect custody orders from other states, its courts cannot modify out-of-state orders until the child lived in Texas for at least six months. But, a court can modify these orders, if all parties and the child no longer live in the state that first issued the order.

When a party still lives in another state, a modification petition has to be filed in that state with a request that the other state allow a Texas court to hear the case for the parties’ and witnesses’ convenience. Exceptions to these rules also provide for emergency situations involving danger to the child.

A parent involved with a custody proceeding should seek legal representation to help assure their legal rights and the child’s best interests are protected. An attorney can help parents follow procedures and obtain a just agreement.