After the finalization of your divorce, your life likely changed radically. You may have moved to a new city, found a new job, been remarried or otherwise made adjustments to your life situation. Sometimes, once a few years have passed since the divorce, an old child custody arrangement just doesn’t make sense anymore. If you feel the need to ask the court to modify your child custody arrangement, here are the steps you need to take – and what your attorney will need to prove to the court.
Exclusive continuing jurisdiction
The first thing that you should know about the custody modification process is that, under most circumstances, you must make the request for modification in the same court that issued your final divorce decree.
This is because Texas has adopted a universal statute that reserves exclusive continuing jurisdiction for child custody cases to the court that issued the original order. If you try to modify the order in a court in a different state, that court will not take your case – they will refer you back to the court that has exclusive jurisdiction over your custody case.
The only way that a court from a different state can take over jurisdiction of your case is if you, your ex-spouse, and your children permanently move away from your old state and have no significant ties to that state any longer.
What courts look for when modifying orders
Texas family courts promote amicable resolution of conflicts. Thus, if you have a relatively cordial relationship with your ex-spouse, and you are able to negotiate a modification of your parenting plan amongst yourselves, the court is likely to approve and adopt your agreement.
If your ex-spouse is opposed to your proposed modifications, however, then the court may have to issue a decision. The best interest of your child will always be the court’s top priority. Your attorney will have to show that your situation has materially changed since the divorce, and that the custody modification is the best thing for your child given the circumstances.
It’s never easy navigating the contentious waters of child custody disputes. With luck, you will be able to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse that will benefit your child while also fitting your changing lifestyle.