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(Modification) I need to respond to a modification case.

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(Modification) I need to respond to a modification case.

This toolkit tells you about your options if your child’s other parent (or someone else) has filed a modification case to change an existing custody, visitation or child support order. ANSWER FORM INCLUDED.

This toolkit includes:

  • Instructions & Forms you can use to file an answer in a modification case.
  • Frequently Asked Questions about responding to a modification case.
  • Articles on topics related to child custody, visitation, child support and medical support.

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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.

Instructions & Forms
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a modification case?

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

Where should a modification case be filed?

A modification case should be filed in the Texas county where the existing order was made.

What if the child no longer lives in the county where the existing order was made?

If the child has lived in another Texas county for the last 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 before your answer deadline or before the court hearing (whichever happens first). Talk to a lawyer about whether filing a motion to transfer makes sense for your case. TexasLawHelp.org does not currently have motion to transfer forms.

If your child has lived in another state for the last 6 months, talk to a lawyer. The Texas court may have lost the power to make orders about your child.  

What does it mean to be “served” with court papers?

Unless you agree to change the existing order, the petitioner (the person who filed the modification case) must have you served with the initial court papers.

The initial court papers include:

  • a Citation (a form issued by the court to officially notify the respondent of the case) and
  • a copy of the Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship (the form filed by the petitioner to start the case).

The initial court papers will also include the following (if applicable in your case):

  • any other forms filed by the petitioner at the beginning of the case and/or
  • any orders signed by the judge at the beginning of the case.

If you are the respondent, there are several ways you can be served with the Citation and Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship

  • You can be served in person by a constable, sheriff or private process server. (If you are served in person, you will not need to sign anything.)
  • You can be served by certified or registered mail (return receipt requested) by the court clerk, constable, sheriff or private process server. (Service by certified mail is valid only if you sign the return receipt showing that you received the letter.)
  • You can be served by posting or publication if the petitioner can’t find you. This means the Citation will be posted at the courthouse or published in a newspaper.
  • You can be served any other way approved by the judge. For example, if the constable, sheriff or private process server is unable to serve you in person or by certified mail but can confirm your home address or work address, the judge could order that the Citation and Petition be:
    • posted to your door, or
    • left with anyone over 16 at your home or work, or
    • mailed to you at your home or work by regular mail.

Note: Papers filed by the petitioner later in the case will usually be mailed (regular mail) or emailed to you.

Talk to a lawyer if you have questions about being served.

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

Read the modification papers carefully and right away. Is there a standing order? Has the judge signed a temporary restraining order? Are there any hearings dates? If so, read these articles to learn more: Standing Orders, Temporary Orders & Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs)

Calculate the deadline to file an answer. Find the day you were served with modification papers on a calendar, count out 20 more days (including weekends and holidays), then go to the next Monday. You must file an answer with the court on or before this date at 10:00 a.m. If you don’t, the petitioner may finish the modification without you. Note: If the 20th day is a Monday go to the next Monday. If the courts are closed on the day your answer is due, then your answer is due the next day the courts are open.

Try to talk to a lawyer. 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:

Decide how you want to respond.

  • Option 1: File an answer. If you have been served with modification papers and want to have a say in the case, you must file (turn in) a Respondent’s Original Answer form with the court. If you don’t, the petitioner may finish the modification without you. Get answer forms here: Instructions & Forms for Filing an Answer in a Modification Case.

Warning! It’s important to talk with a lawyer before filing an answer (or any other form) with the court if you don’t live in Texas or think the modification should be transferred to another court in Texas.

  • Option 2: File an answer AND a counter-petition for modification. A counter-petition for modification tells the judge what orders you want the judge to make in your modification. If your modification is contested, you may want to file (turn in) a Respondent’s Original Answer form AND a Respondent’s Original Counter-Petition for Modification form. Modification counter-petition forms are not currently available on TexasLawHelp.org.
  • Option 3: Do nothing. If you have been served with modification papers and do nothing, the petitioner can finish the modification without you. This is called a “default judgment.” You will not have a say in any of the issues involved in the modification case.

If you have questions about your options, it’s important to talk with a lawyer.

Do I need a lawyer to help me with my modification?

Modification cases can be complicated. It’s a good idea to talk with a family law lawyer who can explain your options and give you advice about your particular situation.

It’s really important to talk with a family law lawyer if any of the following are true.

  • You are afraid for your or your children’s safety.
  • Your case is contested.
  • The petitioner has a lawyer.

If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

What if I'm concerned about my safety or my child's safety?

If you are concerned about your safety or the safety of your children, call the National Domestic Violence 24 Hour Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). They can refer you to help in your community.

For legal help, you can also call:

For situations involving sexual assault, you can also call:

If you are an immigrant, you can also call:

In an emergency, please call 911.

Find out more in the Protection from Violence or Abuse section of this website.

What is an answer?

An answer is a legal form filed by the respondent in a court case.

Filing an answer with the court protects your right to have a say in the issues involved in the case.

If you file an answer, the petitioner cannot finish the modification case unless:

  • you and the petitioner (and anyone else named as a respondent in the case) agree to and sign an Order in Suit to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship, or
  • the petitioner gives you written notice of a contested hearing date.

Get instructions and answer form here: Instructions & Forms for Filing an Answer in a Modification Case.

How much does it cost to file an answer?

Filing an answer is free.

Can I file an answer if I haven’t been served?

Yes. When a modification is agreed, the respondent will often voluntarily file a Respondent’s Original Answer form or Waiver of Service Only (Specific Waiver) form. If you voluntarily file an answer or waiver of service, you will not need to be formally served.

Read about the steps in an agreed modification here: Instructions & Forms for an Agreed Modification.