Archive for April, 2015
Under Texas law, there are only limited circumstances in which a parent can modify a child custody or visitation order. Such a change will be made only if it is in the best interests of the child, and:
- the circumstances of the child or parent have materially and substantially changed since the original child custody order or agreement
- the child is at least 12 years old and has told the court in chambers that the child wants a change, or
- the custodial parent has voluntarily given the child’s care and custody to another person.
Material and Substantial Change
Texas family courts have recognized several situations that would qualify as a material and substantial change in the circumstances of a child or parent affected by a custody or visitation order. Examples include a parent’s remarriage, a medical condition that adversely affects a parent’s ability to function and work on a regular basis, a parent’s criminal acts and convictions, or a parent’s changes in residence that make visitation a hardship for the other parent.
In any proceeding to determine parental rights, the court will interview children who are at least 12 years old, in chambers (the judge’s private office, rather than in the courtroom). Younger children may also be interviewed.
An older child who expresses a desire to live with the other parent doesn’t have the last word, however. Even if a child asks the court to modify a child custody or visitation order, the court may do so only if that change is in the child’s best interests.
Relinquishment of Custody
The court may also modify a custody order if the custodial parent has voluntarily given up the care and custody of the child to another person for at least six months. However, this provision doesn’t apply if the custodial parent has only temporarily relinquished the care of the child during a period of military deployment, mobilization or duty.
What is the Value of Mediation in Texas Divorce Cases?
Mediation has many benefits in divorce cases, including:
- it’s less expensive than using a lawyer to take the same case through the courts
- mediation has a high success rate in resolving divorce issues, especially when both spouse are open to compromise and committed to reaching an agreement
- mediation is confidential—there’s no public record of what goes on in your sessions(as opposed to a public courtroom where a record of all proceedings is made)
- you and your spouse (not a judge) are in control of the decision-making process, and you have more flexibility in arriving at your own solutions
- mediation can help improve communication and make future interactions with your spouse easier (especially important if you will have an ongoing relationship because you have children together), and
- you can still ask a lawyer for advice if you wish (eg., you can hire a consulting attorney to answer legal questions you may have during the mediation process and review the proposed divorce settlement agreement to make sure your rights are fully protected).