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

Child Custody & Visitation

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

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer.

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

Uncontested versus Contested

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 an 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.

Common questions about Child Custody & Visitation

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

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:

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

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.

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.

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).

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:

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.

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 Directory tool for help finding a private lawyer or free or low-cost legal help in your area.

The guide Temporary Restraining Orders, Temporary Injunctions, and Temporary Orders in Child Custody Emergencies includes a motion for temporary orders, which can be used to make temporary changes to your visitation schedule. But temporary orders will not last forever. Eventually you will also have to go to court to get final orders about visitation, conservatorship, and child support (if applicable). You can read more about agreed modifications here:

Also read the section below which answers the question: 

Do I have to request a TRO if the other parent or parent(s) will agree to not be around the child temporarily?

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

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:

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:

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. 

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.

Instructions & Forms

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer.

These instructions explain the steps to change an existing custody, visitation, child support, or medical & dental support order when everyone agrees. 

For the instructions and forms combined, click here.

Checklist Steps

Fill out the following starting forms:

This form (called the Petition) asks the judge to change the current order. (The Articles and Frequently Asked Questions included in this toolkit will help you understand your options. Talk to a lawyer if you have questions or need advice.)

Write the cause number and court number on the first page of the Petition just as it is written on the order you want to change. (Write these numbers at the top of any document you file in your modification case.)

Print your answers using blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks.

Who is the petitioner? You are the petitioner—the person asking the court to change the current court order. This is true even if you are listed as the respondent in the current order.

Who must be listed as a respondent? Any person listed as a party in the current order must be listed as a respondent. If the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division is listed as a party in the current order you must also list it as a respondent.

Note: The Petition asks for your address. Each respondent will get a copy of your Petition. If you are concerned about a respondent knowing your address, call the Family Violence Legal Line at 800-374-4673 for free advice.

Fill out these additional starting forms and attach them to your Petition if required for your case:

Fill out these additional starting forms for all cases:

Fill out this additional starting form if you cannot afford to pay the filing fee for your case. Call the district clerk’s office in the county where your child lives to learn the filing fee for your modification case.

Fill out the following ending forms:

Fill out this order form completely (except for the judge’s signature). When it’s time to finish your case, you will ask a judge to sign this Order Modifying the Parent Child Relationship form with one or more of the specific order forms below attached.

If child support will be changed fill out and attach this order form:

If medical and dental support will be changed, fill out and attach this order form:

If custody will be changed fill out and attach one of these order forms:

If possession (visitation) will be changed fill out and attach one of these possession order forms or use one of the sample modified possession order forms included with this article: Child Visitation & Possession Orders. Or hire a lawyer to help you write a possession order that meets the specific needs of your family.

Use this form if a non-parent will be the managing conservator of the children.

Fill out the following additional ending form if child support will be ordered, changed or stopped.

Some counties require your documents to be reviewed by an attorney, while others do not. You should speak with the district clerk's office or court coordinator in your county about local requirements. Even if it's not required, it’s a good idea to have a family law lawyer review your completed forms. Family law lawyers specialize in cases involving families, such as custody and support modification cases.

You can hire a lawyer just to review your forms. Hiring a lawyer for a limited purpose is called limited scope representationYou can then finish your case yourself. Use our Legal Help Directory to search for a lawyer referral organization in your county.

If you have a low income, you may be able to have your forms reviewed for free at a legal clinic. Use our Legal Events and Clinics page  to search for free legal clinics in your area.

Make enough copies of your completed Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship to have one copy for you and one copy for each respondent.

Make copies of your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Courts only if you are asking the court to waive court costs.

You do not need copies of the Civil Case Information Sheet or the Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship.

File (turn in) your completed Petition and other starting forms with the court in the county where the current order was made.

You need to find out if your county has standing orders. If it does, you will need to attach a copy of the standing orders to your petition. 

  • To file your forms online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions.
  • To file your forms in person, take your Petition and additional starting forms (and copies) to the district clerk’s office in the county where the current order was made.

At the clerk’s office:

  • Turn in your Petition and other starting forms (and copies).
  • Pay the filing fee (or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the fee).
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for your case.
  • The clerk will “file-stamp” your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the original and give you back your copies. There should be a copy for you and a copy for each respondent.

Note: If the child has lived in another Texas county for at least 6 months, 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. File your Petition and Motion to Transfer with the court in the county where the current order was made. Talk to a lawyer about whether a transfer makes sense for your case.

Note: If the child has lived in another state for at least the past 6 months, it is important to talk with a lawyer about where to file your case.

Give the other parent:

  • a file-stamped copy of your Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship - and -
  • a blank Respondent’s Original Answer form OR a blank Waiver of Service Only form, - and -
  • a completed Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship form with completed order forms regarding the issues you want changed attached.

WARNING! Do not hand-deliver any papers to the other parent if there has been violence during your relationship, especially if a judge has signed a Protective Order ordering you or the other parent to stay away. You can have the other parent served instead. If you decide to have the other parent served, use these instructions: Instructions & Forms for a Default Modification.

Ask the other parent to complete these 3 steps:

  1. FILL OUT and SIGN the Respondent’s Original Answer form - OR - the Waiver of Service Only form.
    • The other parent can fill out and sign either form. The Waiver of Service Only form must be signed in front of a notary. If the other parent plans to sign the Waiver of Service Only form, tell the other parent to sign it in front of a notary at least one day after you filed the Petition. Otherwise the other parent will have to redo it. The Respondent’s Original Answer form does not have to be signed in front of a notary.
    • Note: If the other parent will not fill out and sign a Respondent’s Original Answer form or Waiver of Service Only form, you must have the other parent served by a constable, sheriff or private process server. Use these instructions instead: Instructions & Forms for a Default Modification.
  2. SIGN the completed Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship form with completed order forms regarding the issues you want changed attached.
    • The Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship form must be completely filled out and the specific order forms regarding the issues you want changed must be attached when the other parent signs the order. You CANNOT make changes to the order forms after the order has been signed by a respondent, unless the respondent initials each change.
  3. RETURN the signed forms to you.

You should also:

  • sign the Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship form, - and -
  • make a copy of the Respondent’s Original Answer form or Waiver of Service Only form that was filled out and signed by the other parent.

IMPORTANT: If anyone else was named as a respondent in your Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship, you must follow these same steps for each respondent.

IMPORTANT: If the other parent or other respondent will not sign an Answer or Waiver of Service Only form, you must have him or her served. Get instructions here: Instructions & Forms for a Default Modification.

If the other parent or other respondent signs and files an Answer or Waiver of Service Only form but will not sign the Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship form, your case is contested. To finish a contested case, you must set a contested final hearing. You must give each respondent at least 45 days’ notice of the final hearing. Read this article to learn more: How to Set a Contested Final Hearing (Family Law). It’s always best to have a lawyer if your case is contested. 

Effective January 1, 2021, once a party to a family law case (like a divorce) files an answer, both sides will be obligated to exchange certain information and documents within 30 days.

WARNING! Effective January 1, 2021, once a party to a family law case (like a custody modification case) files an answer, both sides will be obligated to exchange certain information and documents within 30 days. The form is here: Required Initial Disclosures in SAPCRs and Modifications.

If the other parent and anyone else named as a respondent has filled out and signed a Respondent’s Original Answer form or Waiver of Service Only form AND signed your completed Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship form, you can go to court to finish your agreed modification case.

  • Call the clerk’s office to learn when and where the court hears uncontested cases.
  • Bring these papers with you to the courthouse on the day you plan to finish your case.
  • A file-stamped copy of your Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship, - and -
  • The Answer or Waiver of Service Only form signed by each Respondent. - and -
  • A completed Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship signed by you and each Respondent. - and –
  • A completed Income Withholding Order for Support if child support will be changed or stopped.
  • Read the article Tips for the Courtroom for more information about going to Court.
  • When you get to the courthouse, go to the clerk’s office. Ask if you need the court file or docket sheet (list of what has been filed in your case).
  • When you get to the courtroom, tell the clerk you are there and give the clerk your paperwork. Sit down until the judge calls your case.
  • When the judge calls your case, walk to the front of the courtroom and stand in front of the judge’s bench. The judge will have you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. Be prepared to quickly tell the judge what orders you are asking the judge to change and why the change or changes you are asking for would be in your child’s best interest. It’s a good idea to write down everything you want to say so you can read it to the judge if you get nervous.
  • The judge will listen to what you say and review your papers. If everything is in order the judge will sign your Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship.

After the judge signs your Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship, go back to the clerk’s office.

  • File (turn in) the signed Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship and any other orders signed by the judge. Your modification case is NOT final until you do so.
  • Get a certified copy of your Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship and any other orders signed by the judge from the clerk while you are there. The clerk may charge a fee for the certified copies.
  • If child support was ordered, ask the clerk what you need to do to set up a child support account. If child support was changed or terminated, ask the clerk to send a copy of the income withholding order for support to the employer of the person who is or was ordered to pay child support.
  • Complete and submit the Record of Support Order to the county’s clerk of the court to set up the child support account.

Send a file-stamped copy of the Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship to each respondent.

Follow these additional steps if they apply:

  • If you were ordered to pay child support, cash medical support, or dental support, learn about payment options here: Texas Attorney General - Child Support Payment Options. If you have any questions, call the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division at 1-800-252-8014. DO NOT send child support payments directly to the other parent.
  • If the other parent was ordered to pay child support, medical support, or dental support to you and doesn’t pay, you can contact the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division for help enforcing your order.

Forms Required

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer.

These instructions explain the steps to change a custody, visitation, child support, medical support, or dental support order when you don’t think the other parent (or other respondent) will participate. Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step. 

“Default” means you have the other parent (or other respondent) served with the initial court papers and he or she does not file an answer with the court. If the other parent (or other respondent) is served and defaults, you can finish the case without them.

For the instructions and forms combined, click here.

Checklist Steps

Fill out the following form:

This form (called the Petition) asks the judge to change the current order.

Write the cause number and court number on the first page of the Petition just as it is written on the order you want to change. Write these numbers at the top of any document you file in your modification case.)

Print your answers using blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks.

Who is the petitioner? You are the petitioner—the person asking the court to change the current court order. This is true even if you are listed as the respondent in the current order.

Who must be listed as a respondent? Any person listed as a party in the current order must be listed as a respondent. If the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division is listed as a party in the current order you must also list it as a respondent.

In some cases the only respondent is the other parent. In other cases, there are additional respondents. If anyone else is named as a respondent in your Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship:

  1. that respondent must also be served and default (not file an answer with the court), - or -
  2. that respondent must sign the necessary court forms showing he or she agrees to the changes.

If a respondent will agree to sign the necessary court forms, follow these steps for that respondent: Instructions & Forms for an Agreed Modification.

Note: The Petition asks for your address. Each respondent will get a copy of your Petition. If you are concerned about a respondent knowing your address, call the Family Violence Legal Line at 800-374-4673 for free advice.

Fill out these additional starting forms and attach them to your Petition if required for your case:

Fill out these additional starting forms:

Fill out this additional form if you cannot afford to pay the filing fee for your case. Call the clerk’s office in the county where the current order was made to learn the filing fee for your case.

Make copies:

  • Make enough copies of your completed Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship to have one copy for you and one copy for each respondent.
  • Make one copy of the Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Courts if you are asking the court to waive court costs.
  • You do not need copies of the Civil Case Information Sheet or the Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship.

Note: Some counties require your documents to be reviewed by an attorney, while others do not. You should speak with the district clerk's office or court coordinator in your county about local requirements. Even if it's not required, it’s a good idea to have a family law lawyer review your completed forms. Family law lawyers specialize in cases involving families, such as custody and support modification cases.

File (turn in) your completed Petition and other starting forms with the court in the county where the current order was made.

You need to find out if your county has standing orders. If it does, you will need to attach a copy of the standing orders to your petition. 

Note: If the child has lived in another Texas county for at least 6 months, 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. File your Petition and Motion to Transfer with the court in the county where the current order was made. Talk to a lawyer about whether a transfer makes sense for your case.

Note: If the child has lived in another state for at least the past 6 months, it is important to talk with a lawyer about where to file your case.

  • To file your forms online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions.
  • To file your forms in person, take your Petition and additional starting forms (and copies) to the district clerk’s office in the county where the current order was made.

At the clerk’s office:

  • Turn in your Petition and other starting forms (and copies).
  • Tell the clerk you want to have one or more of the respondents named in your Petition served in person. This means a sheriff, constable or private process server will deliver the initial court papers to the respondent in person.
  • Pay the filing fee and issuance fee (or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the court costs).
  • Ask the clerk if there is a local standing order that you need to follow or attach to any of your documents.
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules or you need to know about for your modification case.
  • The clerk will “file-stamp” your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the original and give one copy back to you.
  • The clerk will print a form called a “citation.” The citation tells the respondent that you have filed a modification case. The citation also tells the respondent that unless he or she files an answer with the court you will be able to finish your case by default. The clerk will attach the other copy of your Petition to the citation. The citation with a copy of your Petition attached are the “initial court papers” that must be served on the respondent by a constable, sheriff or private process server. Read Step 3 for further instructions.

It is your responsibility to arrange for the respondent to be served with the initial court papers by a constable, sheriff or private process server. You CANNOT serve the initial court papers yourself.

What are the initial court papers? The initial court papers include the citation you got at the clerk’s office with a copy of your Petition attached.

What do I need to do? Send the initial court papers to a constable, sheriff or private process server in the county where the respondent can be served. Include the service fee or a file-stamped copy of your Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs. (Call first to learn the fee.) Also include a self-addressed and stamped envelope.

The constable, sheriff or private process server will deliver the initial court papers to the respondent in person. The constable, sheriff or private process server will fill out a form called a “Return of Service.” It tells the court when and where the respondent was served. The completed Return of Service is proof the respondent was served. The respondent will not have to sign anything.

The Return of Service must be filed with the court. The constable, sheriff or private process server may file it themselves or they may give the completed Return of Service form to you. If they give it to you, make a copy and file the original at the courthouse. It must be on file for at least 10 days before you can finish your case, not counting the day it is filed or the day you go to court to finish your case.

What if I’m having trouble serving the other parent or other respondent? For more information read this article: How to Serve Initial Court Papers (Family Law). You can also use Ask a Question to chat with a law student or lawyer online.

What if I can’t find a respondent? If you cannot find a respondent (after looking really hard), you must have the respondent served by publication in a local newspaper, on the state's service by publication web site, or both. You must also have to hire a lawyer to serve as an attorney ad litem for the respondent. For more information read this article: Service by Publication (when you can't find the other parent).

You will ask the judge to sign a new order to change the current order. The new order must be completely filled out before going to court. The new order will be the Order Modifying the Parent Child Relationship form with specific order forms attached regarding the issues you want changed. You and the other parent may want to fill out the order forms together

Fill out the following order form for all cases:

Fill out the Order completely (except for the judge’s signature). When it’s time to finish your case, you will ask a judge to sign this Order Modifying the Parent Child Relationship form with one or more of the specific order forms below attached.

If child support will be changed fill out and attach this order form:

If medical and dental support will be changed fill out and attach the order form below:

If custody will be changed fill out and attach one of these order forms:

If possession (visitation) will be changed fill out and attach one of these order forms or hire a lawyer to help you write a possession order that meets the specific needs of your family.

Use this form if a non-parent will be the managing conservator of the children. You can find other sample modified possession orders here: Child Visitation & Possession Orders

Fill out the following additional order form if child support will be ordered, changed or stopped.

TIP: Read these short articles to learn about child support, medical support, dental support, custody and visitation:

TIP: It’s a good idea to have a lawyer review your order forms after you fill them out. You can hire a lawyer just to review your forms. This is called “limited scope representation.” Use our Legal Help Finder tool to search for legal help in your area. Or, if your income is low, you may be able to have your completed forms reviewed at a free legal clinic. Use our Legal Clinic Calendar tool to search for a free legal clinic in your area.

  • 20 + day waiting period – From the day the respondent is served, the respondent must have at least 20 days plus the next Monday at 10 a.m. to file an answer. Find the day the respondent was served on a calendar, count out 20 more days, then go to the next Monday. This is the last day of the respondent’s answer period. However, if the respondent files an answer at any time before you finish your modification case it will still count.
  • 10 + day waiting period – The constable, sheriff, private process server should have completed a Return of Service form stating when the respondent was served. The Return of Service form must be on file with the court for at least 10 days before you can finish your case. Important: When counting the 10 day waiting period, do not count the day the Return of Service is filed with the court and do not count the day you go to court to finish your case.

Call the clerk’s office to find out if the respondent filed an answer.

  • If the respondent filed an answer, you CANNOT finish your modification case by default.
    • If the respondent filed an answer and will now agree to sign your completed Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship form you can finish your case by agreement.
    • If the respondent filed an answer and will not agree to sign your completed Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship form your case is contested. To finish a contested modification case, you must set a contested final hearing. You must give the respondent at least 45 days’ notice of the final hearing. Read this article to learn more: How to Set a Contested Final Hearing (Family Law). Remember: It’s always best to have a lawyer if your case is contested.
  • If the respondent has NOT filed an answer, you CAN finish your modification case by default as long as all of the following are true.
    • The respondent was successfully served by a constable, sheriff, or private process server; 
    • A Return of Service form (stating when and where the respondent was served) has been on file with the clerk’s office for at least 10 days (not counting the day it was filed or the day you go to court); 
    • The 20 + day waiting period for the respondent to file an answer has passed;
    • If the respondent was served by publication, you hired a lawyer to be the “attorney ad litem” for the respondent and the lawyer has not been able to find the respondent; and
    • The respondent has not filed an answer and does not file an answer before you finish your modification case. (Remember, the respondent can file an answer up until the time you finish your modification case, even if the 20 + day waiting period has already passed.)
    • If anyone else was named as a respondent in your Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship:
  • that respondent was also served and defaulted (did not file an answer with the court),

                      or

  • that respondent signed the necessary court forms showing he or she agrees to the changes.

If you CAN finish your modification case by default, fill out these additional forms and make 1 copy of each form:

Call the clerk’s office to find out when and where the court hears uncontested modification cases.

Call the clerk’s office again the day before you plan to go to court to make sure the respondent has still not filed an Answer. If the respondent has filed an answer, you cannot finish your case by default. Go back to Step 6.

Read the article Tips for the Courtroom for more information about going to court. 

Bring these papers with you to the courthouse on the day you plan to finish your modification case.

  • A copy of the order you are asking the judge to change;
  • A file-stamped copy of your Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship;
  • A file-stamped copy of the Return of Service form showing when and where the respondent was served;
  • A completely filled out Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship signed by you;
  • A completely filled out Income Withholding Order for Support if child support will be ordered, changed, or stopped;
  • A completed Certificate of Last Known Mailing Address form and 1 copy;
  • A completed Military Status Declaration (or Military Status Affidavit) and 1 copy; and
  • If the respondent was served by publication, a completed Statement of the Evidence and the lawyer you hired to serve as attorney ad litem for the respondent.
  • If another respondent was served and defaulted, you must also bring the following for that respondent:
    • A file-stamped copy of the Return of Service form showing when and where that respondent was served; 
    • A completed Certificate of Last Known Mailing Address form and 1 copy; and
    • A completed Military Status Declaration (or Military Status Affidavit) and 1 copy.

When you get to the courthouse, go to the clerk’s office.

  • Ask the clerk if you need the court file or docket sheet (list of what has been filed in your case).
  • Ask the clerk to check one more time to see if the respondent has filed an answer. If the respondent has filed an Answer, you will not be able to finish your case by default. Go back to Step 6.
  • File the Certificate of Last Known Mailing Address and the Military Status Declaration (or Military Status Affidavit). Ask the clerk to file stamp your copy of each form. Bring a file-stamped copy of each form with you to court.
  • When you get to the courtroom, tell the clerk you are there and give the clerk your paperwork. Sit down until the judge calls your case.
  • When the judge calls your case, walk to the front of the courtroom, and stand in front of the judge’s bench. The judge will have you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. Be prepared to quickly tell the judge, what orders you are asking the judge to change and why the change or changes you are requesting would be in your child’s best interest. It’s a good idea to write down everything you want to say ahead of time. You can read it to the judge if you get nervous.
  • The judge will listen to what you say and review your papers. If everything is in order the judge will sign your Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship.

The procedure may be different if you are appearing by videoconference app. Read Virtual Court.

 

After the judge signs your Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship, go back to the clerk’s office. File (turn in) your Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship and any other orders signed by the judge. Your modification case is NOT final until you do so. Get a certified copy of your Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship and any other orders signed by the judge from the clerk while you are there. The clerk may charge a fee for the certified copies.

If child support was ordered, ask the clerk what you need to do to set up a child support account. If child support was changed or terminated, ask the clerk to send a copy of the income withholding order for support to the employer of the person who is or was ordered to pay child support. 

Complete and submit the Record of Support Order to the county’s clerk of the court to set up the child support account.

Send a file-stamped copy of the Order Modifying the Parent-Child Relationship to each respondent.

Follow these additional steps if they apply:

  • If you were ordered to pay child support and/or cash medical support or dental support, learn about payment options here: Texas Attorney General - Child Support Payment Options. If you have any questions, call the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division at 1-800-252-8014. DO NOT send child support payments directly to the other parent.
  • If the respondent was ordered to pay child support and/or medical support and dental support to you and doesn’t pay, you can contact the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division for help enforcing your order.

Forms Required

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