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(Modification) I need to change a custody, visitation, or support order.

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(Modification) I need to change a custody, visitation, or support order.

This toolkit tells you how to change (modify) an existing custody, visitation, child support, and medical and support order. FORMS ARE INCLUDED.

This toolkit includes:

  • Instructions & Forms you can use to file a modification case to change an existing custody, visitation, child support or medical support order.
    • Use the first set of instructions if everyone agrees.
    • Use the second set of instructions if you don’t think the child’s other parent (or anyone else named as a respondent in your case) will participate in the process.
    • Note: If you are not sure if your case is uncontested or contested, read Is my modification suit contested or uncontested? 
  • Frequently Asked Questions about filing a modification case.
  • Articles on topics related to custody, visitation, child support, and medical and dental support.

Need Help?

WARNING! The information and forms in this toolkit are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation.

 

Instrucciones y formularios
Preguntas frecuentes
A nonparent (e.g., grandparent) is caring for my child temporarily. Do I need to do a modification so that the nonparent can take my child to the doctor, enroll them in school, etc.?

If nonparent (e.g., grandparent) is caring for your child temporarily, you may think you need to do a modification so that the nonparent can take my child to the doctor, enroll them in school, etc.

This is not necessarily the case. If your child is temporarily in the care of a nonparent, you can get a temporary authorization for care of minor children. However, when there is a court order in place, you will need to get permission from the court to do this. You can read more here: Going to Court to Get Temporary Authorization to Care for a Child. If the other parent agrees, and you can reach them, see this article: Authorization for Nonparent Care of a Child. There is a form you can fill out without having to go to court: Authorization Agreement for Nonparent Relative or Voluntary Caregiver is available in the forms bank web site of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

There is a toolkit for asking the court for temporary authorization here: Temporary Authorization for Care of Minor Child (Texas Family Code 35).

 

I am concerned about the health or safety of my child when they visit the other parent. Can I refuse to follow the visitation schedule in my court order?

If you choose not to follow your court order regarding visitation, the noncustodial parent could file to enforce the order. If you believe the order should be changed, then you can file a modification case. If you are concerned about the health or safety of your child with the other parent, you should consult with an attorney. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

  • Use our Legal Help Finder to search for a lawyer referral service, legal aid office or self-help center in your area.
  • Check our Legal Clinic Calendar to learn if there is an upcoming legal clinic near you.
  • Use Ask a Question to chat online with a lawyer or law student. 

 

How do I change an existing custody, visitation, child support or medical support order?

You can ask a judge to change a custody, visitation, child support or medical support order by filing a modification case.

I lost my job because my workplace shut down during the coronavirus crisis. Do I still have to pay child support?

If you lost your job or have less income because your workplace shut down or cut back on your hours or wages during the coronavirus crisis, you still have to pay child support. The Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division says that "Even if you are having trouble making your full payment, it is important to pay as much as you can toward your obligation every month."

While you do still have to pay the same amount that the court ordered, if your ability to pay has changed, you can file a petition to modify the parent-child relationship. See Changing a Custody, Visitation, or Child Support Order. The Harris County Law Library offers this guide to family law research that you can use.

If you are already ordered to pay child support and it is withheld from your paycheck, contact the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division, which offers this guidance on what to do if your employment situation changes. 

The Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division has put together a COVID-19 resource page that will tell you what to do if you need to involve their office but the courthouse or Attorney General storefront is closed.

Texas courts have held that a decrease in a parent’s salary is a material and substantial change in circumstances. That means it is one reason a court might order a change in the amount of child support you are supposed to pay. The Harris County Law Library has a roadmap for doing your own legal research in family law matters.

Your obligation is to support your child.

 

 

Who can file a modification case?

Either parent can file a modification case.

If you are not the child’s parent, you can file a modification case if:

  • You are listed as a party in the current order. or
  • You have had actual care, control and possession of the child for at least 6 months ending not more than 90 days before the date you file the modification case with the court and you are not a foster parent. or
  • You have lived with the child and the child’s parent, guardian or conservator for at least 6 months ending not more than 90 days before the date you file the modification case, and the child’s parent, guardian or conservator has died. or
  • You are the child’s grandparent, great-grandparent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew and
    • Both parents are dead. or
    • Both parents, the surviving parent or managing conservator agree. - or -   
    • The child’s present circumstances will significantly harm the child’s physical health or emotional development.

The Texas Attorney General Child Support Division can also file a modification case.

Is my modification suit contested or uncontested?

TexasLawHelp.org has instructions for uncontested Suits to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship. Your modification suit is uncontested if it can be finished by agreement or by default.

  • Your modification suit can be finished by agreement if you and the other parent agree about all the issues (including custody, visitation and child support) and are both willing to sign the modification suit forms.
  • Your modification suit can be finished by default (without the other parent) if the other parent is served and does not file an answer or otherwise appear in court.

Your modification suit is contested if the other parent files an answer or waiver of service and will not sign the Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship. To finish a contested modification suit, you must set your case for final hearing and give the other parent at least 45 days’ notice of the hearing. It’s important to talk with a lawyer if your case is contested.

Read this article to learn more: How to Set a Contested Final Hearing (Family Law).

 

Can the Attorney General help me change a court order?
Do I need a lawyer to help me with my modification case?

You do not have to have a lawyer to file a modification case. But if it is a contested case, you should.

Before filing your case it’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your situation. A lawyer can explain your rights and options. 

If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

  • Use our Legal Help Finder to search for a lawyer referral service, legal aid office or self-help center in your area.
  • Check our Legal Clinic Calendar to learn if there is an upcoming free legal clinic near you.
  • Use Ask a Question to chat online with a lawyer or law student.
How much does it cost to file a modification case?

When you file a court case, you must usually pay a “filing fee.” If you need to have the other parent (or other conservator) served, you must also pay an “issuance fee” and a “service fee.” These fees vary by county. Contact the district clerk’s office in the county where you plan to file your case to learn the fees. 

If you don’t have enough money to pay the fees, you can ask a judge to waive the fees by completing and filing a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs. Read this short article to learn more: Court Fees & Fee Waivers.

Where do I file a modification case?

You must file a modification case in the Texas county where the current order was made.

If the child has lived in another Texas county for the last 6 months, you must still file the modification case in the county where the current order was made. However, you have the option of asking the court to transfer the case to the child’s new home county. You must file a Motion to Transfer at the same time you file your Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship. Talk to a lawyer about whether this makes sense for your case.

If your child has lived in another state for the last 6 months, talk with a lawyer about where to file your case. Use our Legal Help Finder tool for help finding a private lawyer or free or low-cost legal help in your area.

Do the other parent and I need to go back to court to make temporary changes to our visitation schedule?

Not necessarily. In many cases, if you and the other parent agree, you can deviate from you court-ordered visitation schedule. However, if you expect the visitation change to last a long time, it may be better to do an agreed modification. You can read more about agreed modifications here:

 

What if my order is from another state?

Ask a lawyer to help you determine if Texas has jurisdiction to change your out-of-state order.

If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

  • Use our Legal Help Finder to search for a lawyer referral service, legal aid office or self-help center in your area.
  • Check our Legal Clinic Calendar to learn if there is an upcoming legal clinic near you.
  • Use Ask a Question to chat online with a lawyer or law student.
What if my order is from Texas but the child, the other parent or I now live in another state?

Ask a lawyer to help you determine if the Texas court that made your order still has jurisdiction to change your order.

If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

  • Use our Legal Help Finder to search for a lawyer referral service, legal aid office or self-help center in your area.
  • Check our Legal Clinic Calendar to learn if there is an upcoming legal clinic near you.
  • Use Ask a Question to chat online with a lawyer or law student.
How does spring break visitation usually work?

Unless the possession and access sections of your court orders say something different, the way visitation usually works in the standard possession order depends on how far apart the parents (or conservators) live from each other.

When they live less than 100 miles from each other, then—in even-numbered years like 2020—the noncustodial parent has the children from 6 p.m. on the day that the child’s school dismisses for Spring Break. Then the noncustodial parent must return the child to the place (usually the custodial parent’s house) specified in the court orders by 6 p.m. the day before school resumes.

When the parents live more than 100 miles from each other, the noncustodial parent is entitled to spring break visitation every year. That visitation is also from 6 p.m. on the day that the child’s school dismisses for Spring Break. Then the noncustodial parent must return the child to the place specified in the court orders by 6 p.m. the day before school resumes. 

If your orders are different from the standard possession order, your spring break visitation might be different. You need to look at what your paperwork says. Show it to a lawyer if you have questions. 

 

I am concerned the custodial parent will try to move our child far away or out of state. Is there anything I can do?

Some orders include a geographic restriction, which limits where the child can live. You should review your order to see if it includes one. If it doesn’t, you can file to modify your order and ask that the judge add a geographic restriction. You can read more about geographic restrictions here: Geographic Restrictions.

 

 

Formularios