After the divorce or original custody case is over, life for the parents and children usually moves on. Custody orders are designed to last a several years, but as time goes by the family’s and children’s needs may change. As changes occur, a custody order can become more and more unworkable, and the order may need to be changed. Custody orders in Texas can be changed by agreement of the parties or by the Court’s ruling after a trial.

In Texas, the parent or party who requests the custody order be changed must show that there has been a material and substantial change of circumstances. This means that the change in circumstances must be significant. Examples of reasons a judge would change custody may include:

  1. The parent who has primary conservatorship has voluntarily relinquished the child to the non-primary parent for longer than six months.
  2. Physical or emotional harm to the child by the parent. Physical, sexual, and sometimes emotional abuse of a child by a parent or a member of the parent’s household. Likewise, a parent ignoring an outcry of abuse by the child or protecting the child’s abuser are also reasons a judge may change custody.
  3. The needs of the child have changed. Changes to a child’s medical, psychological, psychiatric, or educational needs are reasons a judge may change a parent’s right rights and duties, visitation, and child support.
  4. The custodial parent consistently denies the Court-ordered visitation to the non-custodial parent over a significant period of time.
  5. The child wants to live with the other parent and is over the age of twelve

      However, a material and substantial change of circumstances is not enough by itself to change custody. The requested change in custody must also be in the child’s best interest. There are several different factors that determine best interest of the child, so it is best to speak with a family law attorney to determine whether your case facts and circumstances meet the criteria of a material and substantial change and is in the best interest of the child.