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When Can a Child Custody Arrangement be Modified?

In most family law disputes relating to children, courts in Texas place primary importance on the well-being of the child involved.  In making its initial child custody determination, a Texas court constructs a child custody and visitation plan that appears to be in the best interests of the child.  In order to establish stability and permanency for the child, such orders are usually permanent.  However, a court may modify a child custody order under certain circumstances.

As a general rule, a Texas court will only modify an existing child custody or visitation order if the circumstances of any affected party have materially and substantially changed since the court issued the ordering to be modified or, in the case of collaborative or mediated divorce, the date the parties signed their child custody or visitation agreement.  For children 12 years of age or older, a court may also modify a child custody order based on a preference expressed by the child to the judge in chambers.

Any party affected by a child custody order can petition the court for modification.  This generally includes both custodial and noncustodial parents, but in certain situations can extend to many other individuals. These include the following:

  • Guardians
  • Conservators
  • Foster parents
  • Stepparents
  • Government agencies
  • Child placement services
  • Family members
  • Grandparents
  • Other individuals who acted as parents to the child for at least six months

Siblings separated from the child by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services may also seek a modification that allows them access to the child.  A child may even seek to modify his or her own custody or visitation order through a court-appointed representative.

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Robert Reid McInvale
Attorney at Law

Robert Reid McInvale is an experienced family law attorney with a comprehensive practice in Houston. He provides dedicated and strong advocacy for his clients, helping them with all the issues surrounding their divorce, separation, child custody, and other marriage and family matters. Attorney McInvale—Reid to clients and friends—seemed destined for a law career. Born while his father was attending Emory University Law School, Reid grew up in Manchester, GA. His father was the city attorney for many years, as well as head of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. It is in the family blood to become lawyers and help people get justice. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall is part of the McInvale family tree.

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