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Responding to a Modification Case

Child Custody & Visitation

This article explains what a modification case is and the options for responding to a modification case.

After a final custody, visitation, or support order has been made, it may be necessary to change the order to adapt to new circumstances. A modification case is how to do that. Here, learn about modification cases, how to respond to one, and where to find more resources you can use to inform yourself. 

What is a modification case?

A modification case asks a judge to change an existing custody, visitation, child support, medical support, or dental support order.

Either parent can file a modification case. The person who files, or starts, the case is called a petitioner. The person who receives notice of the case and has to respond is called the respondent. 

Am I the petitioner or the respondent?

If you are the person who filed the case, you are the petitioner. If you received paperwork for a case that has been started by someone else, you are the respondent. 

What should I do if I am served with court papers in a modification case?

Your first step is to read all of the paperwork as soon as possible. Cases have important deadlines that you don’t want to miss. 

At the start of the case, the court papers will include the following: 

  •  A citation (a form issued by the court to officially notify you of the case);

  • A copy of the Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship (the form filed by the petitioner to start the case);

  • Any other forms filed by the petitioner at the beginning of the case; and

  • Any orders signed by the judge at the beginning of the case. 

Documents will have a case number and a heading saying “In the Interest of [children’s names]."

As you review the information you received, make note of the following:  

  • The date you were served,

  • Hearing dates,

  • What the petitioner is asking to change, and

  • Any court orders you need to follow.

You may want to speak to a lawyer at this point to find out your options. 

What do I do if I disagree with the modification? 

If you disagree with what the petitioner is asking for, you must file an answer by the deadline. Filing an answer protects your right to have a say in the case as it moves forward. Filing an answer is free. 

To calculate the answer deadline for your answer, do the following: 

  • Find the date you were served on the calendar. 

  • Count 20 days (including weekends and holidays)  

  • 10 a.m. on the following Monday is the deadline. 

  • If the 20th day is a Monday, the following Monday will be the deadline. If the courts are closed on the day your answer is due, then your answer is due the next day the courts are open. 

Example 1: If you are served Wednesday, November 9, 2022, count twenty days. Twenty days from November 9, 2022, is Tuesday, November 29, 2022. Then you go to the following Monday, which is December 5, 2022. Your answer deadline would be Monday, December 5, 2022. 

Example 2: If you are served on Tuesday, November 15, 2022 you would count twenty days. Twenty days from Tuesday, November 15, 2022 is Monday, December 5, 2022. Then you go to the following Monday, which is December 12, 2022. Your answer deadline would be Monday, December 12, 2022.  

Example 3: If you are served Friday, December 23, 2022, you would count twenty days. Twenty days from Friday, December 23, 2022, is Thursday, January 12, 2023. Then you go to the following Monday, which is January 16, 2022. Monday, January 16, 2023 is a holiday, so the deadline is the next day that the courts are open. Your answer deadline would be Tuesday, January 17, 2023.  

You may also want to file a counter-petition for modification with your answer. Only file a counter-petition if you want to make changes to the existing order. You will need to pay a fee to file a counter-petition.

You can use the guide I need to respond to a modification case for answer and counter-petition forms.

What do I do if I agree with the modification?  

If you agree with the modification and want to participate in the modification case, file an answer by the deadline. Filing an answer is free. 

To calculate the answer deadline for your answer, do the following: 

  • Find the date you were served on the calendar.  

  • Count 20 days (including weekends and holidays)  

  • 10 a.m. on the following Monday is the deadline. 

If the 20th day is a Monday, the following Monday will be the deadline. If the courts are closed on the day your answer is due, then your answer is due the next day the courts are open. 

Example 1: You are served Wednesday, November 9, 2022. Count twenty days. Twenty days from November 9, 2022, is Tuesday, November 29, 2022. Go to the following Monday, which is December 5, 2022. Your answer deadline would be Monday, December 5, 2022. 

Example 2: You are served on Tuesday, November 15, 2022. Count twenty days. Twenty days from Tuesday, November 15, 2022, is Monday, December 5, 2022. Go to the following Monday, which is December 12, 2022. Your answer deadline would be Monday, December 12, 2022.  

Example 3: You are served Friday, December 23, 2022. Count twenty days. Twenty days from Friday, December 23, 2022, is Thursday, January 12, 2023. Go to the following Monday, which is January 16, 2023. Monday, January 16, 2023, is a holiday, so the deadline is the next day that the courts are open. Your answer deadline would be Tuesday, January 17, 2023.  

If all parties agree to the modification, then all parties will need to sign an agreed Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship. 

Do I have to respond to the modification case?  

You can do nothing if you do not want a say in how the case progresses or the outcome. The person who filed the case will be able to finish the case without you. But even if you choose not to participate in the case, you will still need to follow the orders signed by the judge. 

Will I need to go to court? 

It depends. If you do not agree with the modification, the case is contested. If a case is contested, you, or the petitioner, will need to set a contested hearing so that the judge can make a decision about the modification. 

Should I continue to follow the existing order? 

Yes. You must follow the existing order until a new order is signed by the judge.  

Should I talk to a lawyer?

Yes. It is important to speak to a lawyer if any of the following are true: 

  • You disagree with the modification, and the case is contested;

  • You, the children, or the other parent, live in a different state;

  • You are concerned about your safety or the safety of your children;

  • The original order is from another state;

  • The children have lived in another Texas county for the last six months;

  • The petitioner has a lawyer; or

  • If you have questions about your case and how to move forward.

A family law lawyer can explain your options and give you advice about your particular situation. You can hire a family law lawyer just to give you advice. Or, you may be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic. 

If you need help finding a lawyer, you can: 

What if I’m concerned about my safety or my children’s safety?  

If you are concerned about your safety or the safety of your children, get help right away by calling one of the organizations listed below. You may qualify for free legal help.  

For situations involving sexual assault, you can also call Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault at 800-991-5153.

 In an emergency, call 911. 

Related Guides

  • I need to respond to a modification case.

    Child Custody & Visitation

    This guide explains your options if your child’s other parent (or someone else) has filed a modification case to change an existing custody, visita...
  • I need to change a custody, visitation, or support order (Modification).

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    This guide tells you how to modify an existing custody, visitation, child support, and medical/dental support order.
  • Related Articles

    Related Forms

  • Respondent's Original Answer [Modification]

    FM-Mod1-102

    Answer form used for original response to a lawsuit seeking to change a Texas custody, visitation, or support order.
  • Counter-Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship

    FM-Mod1-101

    Use to file a counter-suit for a SAPCR modification.