How easy is it to change child custody?

In order to change a child custody arrangement, one parent must request modification, which can be uncontested by agreement or default, or contested. Child custody arrangements are not indefinite and may be modified if a judge finds that there has been a substantial change in circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other person affected by the order and that modification is in the best interests of the child.

Under Texas law, examples of a material and substantial change in circumstances include:

  • A child abuse conviction or probation
  • A family violence conviction or probation
  • When the child’s present circumstances would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development
  • Death of a conservator
  • Change in residence or relocation that results in increased expenses to the person exercising visitation
  • Parental alienation
  • New siblings
  • Instability in the home environment
  • Changes in the child’s age and needs
  • A child expressing his or her preference to the court (must be at least 12 years old) as to the person who should be designated as the conservator with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child
  • Voluntary relinquishment by the parent with primary custody

The majority of modification issues addresses material or substantial change in circumstances. If the change is insignificant in the context of custody, then it is unlikely that a judge will allow modification. For example, moving across the city would not likely meet the standard of substantial change; however, moving to a different state may reasonably satisfy the material and substantial change in circumstances requirement.

It is important to note that, although a change or move to a different state may benefit you, this may not be in the best interest of your child if the child no longer can spend time with the other parent. The primary concern of the court is making a decision that is in the best interest of the child, even if that interest is not shared by the parent.

Either parent may file a modification case. If you are not the child’s parent, you may file a modification if you are listed as a party in the current order or have had actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least 6 months ending no more than 90 days before the date the modification case is filed and you are not a foster parent. Persons who lived with both the child and the child’s parent/guardian/conservator for at least 6 months and family members of the child may also be eligible to file, depending on the circumstances.

When filing a temporary modification to change an existing custody order in Texas, an affidavit proving that the other parent consents to the modification or that the child’s current living situation poses a danger to the child’s physical health or emotional wellbeing may be necessary.

Texas family courts will also consider parental alienation when a child expresses his or her preference of primary parental duties. Parental alienation is where one parent takes actions to discredit the other parent and make the child fear, hate, or reject the targeted parent. Texas judges take allegations of parental alienation very seriously, and parents who commit such alienation find may be negatively impacted in court.

At Liu Law Firm, we recognize that the legal process can be hard to navigate. Whether you are in search of a child custody lawyer, child support lawyer, divorce lawyer, or other family law matters, our team is ready to fight for you as a tenacious advocate as your family law attorney in Allen, TX.


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For help with modifications, child custody changes, and changing an existing court order, contact the Liu Law Firm today at (469) 949-9227.

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