Changing Child Custody in Texas – Part Two

The general rule in child custody is that the party who has primary physical custody under an existing order keeps it unless the other parent can show (1) a material change in circumstances since the last custody order, and (2) that the benefit to the child of a change in custody would outweigh the inherent negative effects of uprooting the child.   With few exceptions, this rule embodies the burden of proof required to support a custody change.

Once we have determined jurisdiction, as discussed in part one of this discussion, we will prepare a petition to modify custody.  The petition will contain a statement of facts sufficient to support a change in custody according to the burden of proof explained above.

Texas courts are busy and will not hesitate to dismiss a petition to modify custody that fails to contain certain threshold allegations.  For instance, the petition must specifically state the material change in circumstances.  Some examples of adequate grounds for a change of custody are physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, drug dependency by a parent, alcohol dependency rendering a parent unfit, and other parenting defects that have a detrimental effect on the child.

If the custody matter is contested, a court will conduct a hearing where the petitioner must present evidence showing the material change in circumstances and that the best interests of the child would be best served by changing custody.

Alternatively, a petitioner may present evidence that the child is over twelve years old and has a written preference for the petitioner or that the primary custodian voluntarily relinquished care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months.

If the custody change is requested within twelve months of the original order, additional evidence may be required.

Occasionally, parents will consent to mutually modify custody.  In these cases, the necessary legal documents should be signed by all parties as quickly as possible before the agreement falls apart.  Family law cases are among the most volatile of all legal matters, so agreements should be papered the same day if possible.

Changing child custody is not often an easy task, but if it is needed to promote the best interests of your child, then it is a matter worthy of the best attorney you can find.

If you need help with a child custody situation in Texas, consult an experienced College Station, Texas divorce attorney.  Call the Peterson Law Group at 979-703-7014 or 936-337-4681 or fill out our online contact form. We are committed to finding solutions for our clients.

About Chris Peterson

Chris Peterson is an attorney and the owner and founder of Peterson Law Group, a Texas law firm with offices in Bryan/College Station and Kingwood. He mainly practices in the areas of Estate Planning and Business Planning. Chris is also a Certified Estate Planner. Besides his law practice, Chris is a serial entrepreneur and community volunteer. He is known for his cutting edge law practice that utilizes technology to deliver efficient, excellent work.