Whenever there are children involved in a divorce in Texas, the court issues an order governing custody—known in Texas as conservatorship—and visitation. Together, this is known as a parenting plan. The order sets forth who has legal conservatorship—most often, this is joint, meaning both parents share responsibility for major decisions regarding the children, such as healthcare, schooling, religious affiliation, and the like.
The order also will set forth who will have physical custody, which can be sole, primary, or joint. Under the first two kinds of physical custody, the children spend all or most of their time with the custodial parent, which the non-custodial parent has visitation rights as set forth in the order. Visitation is not an issue in joint custody, as the children spend roughly have of their time with each parent. The question then becomes, at what point does a change in circumstances call for a modification to the parenting plan order? And is such a change even possible?
A Court May Modify Parenting Plans
Under Texas law, a court with jurisdiction—usually the court that issued the original order, “may modify an order that provides for the conservatorship, support, or possession of and access to a child.” A modification application asks the court to change the existing order that governs the conservatorship, visitation, child support or medical care of the children. Under the law, conservatorship orders can be modified when:
- The circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other party affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the earlier of the date of the rendition of the order; or the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based,
- A child subject to the order who is at least 12 years old and has expressed to the court the name of the person who is the child’s preference to have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child, or
- The conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months.
The last point does not apply to a conservator who temporarily gives up custody due to a military deployment. Modification also may be appropriate where a parent has violated a court order, particularly if the parent violates the order governing conservatorship, child support, and visitation. Either parent can bring a motion to modify the parenting plan by claiming changed circumstances require a modification. However, the parent bringing the motion bears the burden to show by evidence that a modification is necessary.
If You Believe Your Parenting Plan Requires Modification, Contact The Vendt Law Firm, P.L.L.C.
Modifying a parenting plan is not easy, and you are unlikely to succeed without legal assistance. If you live in Sugar Land, or anywhere else in Texas, and believe your parenting plan requires modification, the Vendt Law Firm, P.L.L.C., can assist you with the process. Contact the firm at (832) 276-9674 or through the online contact form.