When you and your co-parent separated, you probably devoted much time, energy, and attention to the child custody or conservatorship agreement. However, making arrangements acceptable to both parents and serving the children’s best interests can be challenging in many cases.
When those carefully negotiated agreements do not work out, it can be frustrating, but it is not unusual. Children’s needs change as they grow and adapting the conservatorship agreement to reflect their changing needs is sometimes necessary.
A Pearland child custody modification lawyer understands the issues that can arise when a conservatorship order is no longer serving its purpose effectively. An experienced child custody attorney at Angela Faye Brown & Associates could help you and your co-parent develop a modification that a court will accept. If you and your co-parent disagree about a modification, a skilled legal professional could fight zealously to achieve your goals in court.
Conservatorship agreements are court orders, and parents have a legal obligation to follow them. Even if the parents negotiated their conservatorship agreement themselves or used a mediator, the court adopted the agreement and issued it as part of the divorce decree, so it has the force of law.
Sometimes parents decide together that some aspect of their plan is not working and agree to make a specific change on their own. That could work well temporarily, but problems arise eventually in many cases. Then, when one parent seeks to enforce the agreement, a judge realizes both parents have been ignoring the original, legally enforceable order. In such a case, a judge might impose an arrangement neither parent wants.
The better strategy is to invest the time in negotiating a modification to the original order and filing it with the court. As long as the court agrees the modification is in the children’s best interests, it will likely accept the change and incorporate it into a new, legally enforceable order. A Pearland child custody modification attorney could help a couple draft the modified contract so that it clearly addresses the best interests of the children.
If one parent seeks a modification and the other objects, the parent who wants the modification (the petitioner) must make a motion with the court seeking modification. The objecting parent (respondent) must answer the motion and express their opposition to the change. The court will then schedule a hearing to decide the matter. A knowledgeable child custody revision lawyer in Pearland could draft and file the necessary paperwork for a parent engaged in a conservatorship modification dispute.
The petitioner must prove modification is necessary because of a material change in circumstances. Courts will often support amending the order if the child’s needs change—for example, if the child develops a physical or mental illness or has a talent or interest they wish to pursue. In addition, courts will support modification if a child over 12 tells the judge in private that they wish to live with the other parent.
A court will also consider modifying a conservatorship agreement if a parent’s circumstances change, such as remarrying or cohabitating, having another child, or suffering a significant financial setback. However, regardless of the parent’s reason for requesting a modification, a court will grant it only if the change supports the children’s best interests.
Texas Family Code §156.102 states courts will not consider conservatorship modifications unless at least one year has passed since the last order, barring an emergency. Situations that could support an emergency request include the death of a parent, a conviction for child abuse or domestic violence, or a situation that threatens the child’s physical, emotional, or mental safety or well-being.
If a parent has proof that the other parent is addicted to drugs or misusing alcohol in the presence of the children, that proof could form the basis of an emergency order temporarily changing the conservatorship arrangements. Similarly, evidence the parent is engaging in criminal behavior in the children’s presence could support a request for an emergency change. If the parent voluntarily relinquished possession of the children for at least six months, that fact also supports an emergency request to change an order.
Courts will attempt to preserve both parents’ right to a meaningful relationship with their children, absent clear proof that contact poses a danger to a child. A concerned parent could request that visits be supervised or take place outside the other parent’s home, but courts rarely deprive a parent of visitation entirely.
It is not unusual for conservatorship agreements to become less effective as children age and develop other needs and interests. It is helpful if both parents recognize the need to adapt their agreements to meet their children’s changing needs. However, when they do not, the law provides a mechanism for them to advocate for their goals for the family.
A Pearland child custody modification lawyer could provide effective representation regardless of a parent’s position on modifying a conservatorship. Call Angela Faye Brown & Associates today to review your situation with a dedicated legal professional.