Modification of Child Custody and Child Support Orders

If you previously filed a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship and the court entered a Final Order, then you may be able to modify those Final Orders if:

  1. The child’s circumstances have substantially and materially changed since the Final Orders were rendered;
  2. The child is at least 12 years old and expressed to the judge in chambers the child’s preference as to who the child would prefer to designate the child’s primary residence (or said differently, a child who is at least 12 years old told the judge in chambers who he or she wants to live with); or
  3. The conservator who had the right to designate the child’s primary residence voluntarily relinquished primary care and possession to another person for at least six months.

The second and third methods to modify a Final Order are pretty straight forward, but the first method is slightly ambiguous. What does it mean when we say a child’s circumstances have substantially and materially changed?

"Substantial and Material Changes" to a Child's Circumstances

Texas courts have recognized the following as substantial and material changes that may be used as grounds to modify a Final Order’s conservatorship, possession, or access provisions:

  • A conservator is convicted of a crime or receives deferred adjudication;
  • Repeated violations of the terms of a Final Order;
  • A conservator remarries;
  • The birth of new siblings or step-siblings;
  • One conservator directs hostility toward another conservator in front of the child;
  • One conservator minimized or prevented the other conservator from having contact with the child;
  • The conservator who has the right to establish the child’s primary residence has made frequent moves;
  • The conservators engage in conflict that results in difficulty communicating;
  • The child’s needs change;
  • A conservator relocates; or
  • Abuse or neglect

Texas courts have recognized the following grounds as substantial and material changes that can serve as grounds to modify the terms of a Final Order’s child support requirements:

  • Change in the child’s residence;
  • Change in conservatorship;
  • Change in the child’s needs;
  • The birth of a new child;
  • A change in the ability to support the child; or
  • A change in the parent’s employment

Temporary Orders Regarding Child Custody or Child Support

Regardless of whether a parent or conservator is trying to modify an existing Final Order or has just instituted a new Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, the court can enter Temporary Orders for the safety and welfare of the child. Temporary Orders typically govern conservatorship (parental rights and duties) and support of the child. Temporary Orders may also prohibit the parties from disturbing the child’s peace or the peace of the other parent or conservator, prohibit the parties from removing the child outside of a defined geographic boundary, and/or prohibit other behaviors. Temporary Orders are put in place to provide for the child's stability and welfare until the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship is finalized.

Generally, the court will hold its first Temporary Orders hearing within a short time after the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship is filed. A court may issue one or more set of Temporary Orders prior to the suit being finalized by either (a) the court entering a Final Order or (b) the parties reaching a Mediated Settlement Agreement.

Temporary Restraining Orders

In addition to Temporary Orders, the court may enter Temporary Restraining Orders and/or Temporary Injunctions. When a court issues a Temporary Restraining Order or Temporary Injunction, the court is ordering a party to take an action or refrain from taking an action and this is usually for the child’s health, safety, or stability. For example, the court may issue a Temporary Restraining Order following the filing of a SAPCR prohibiting the parents or conservators from withdrawing the child from school or from consuming alcohol or controlled substances prior to having access to or possession of the child. If a third party, such as the other parent’s spouse or significant other, is alleged to be a threat or to have harmed the child, the court may issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting that parent from allowing his child to be in the presence of the person alleged to be the threat or abuser.

Contact a Dallas Child Custody and Child Support Attorney

Contact the Dallas Law Office of Pete Rowe if you need an experienced Texas attorney for a child custody or child support matter. Or read what clients say about working with attorney Pete Rowe.

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