Modifying Visitation Orders in Texas

Modifying court orders regarding the visitation of your children becomes necessary for many Texas families. Simply put, it is unrealistic to expect that court orders can be maintained over many years. The circumstances of your family do not remain the same. Therefore, the court orders that your family has in place need to be adjusted along with those court orders. Anticipating the need to modify these court orders is a key part of working toward the best interests of your children.

Understanding that your court orders need updating is one thing. However, it is a different matter to know the process involved in doing so. This takes some time and practice. Unfortunately, time and practice opportunities are not something you have a lot of. As a result, working alongside an experienced family law attorney is a key part of this equation. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help provide that information to you. Thank you for joining us as we share an overview of the child visitation modification process in Texas.

Where was your earlier case heard?

The first question you need to ask yourself in this context is where was your initial child custody case heard? This refers to the court that issued the orders that you need to change now. If it was a Texas court that issued the final orders in your earlier case then that court has continuing exclusive jurisdiction. In other words, this is the court that will decide whether a modification is appropriate now.

This is an important consideration to make. Rather than spending a great deal of time trying to file your case in a different court, it is appropriate to find this case where your earlier case was heard. Taking into consideration where you are living now as well as your circumstances. It is not uncommon to move or to change residences over time. However, even if you move to a different county in Texas the original court may still be the appropriate one to hear your case.

With so much at stake in your case, it is important to have a plan. Understanding the ramifications of Texas child custody modification is crucial. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan understand these considerations. We serve clients every day in the family courts of Texas. Allow us to speak to you about your circumstances. We offer free-of-charge consultations with our experienced family law attorneys.

Considering what to do in an emergency

A court in Texas has emergency jurisdiction temporarily under certain circumstances. First, your child would have to be present in Texas. Next, your child needs to have been abandoned here or is in a situation where he or she is being mistreated in Texas.

So long as no other court has a claim to jurisdiction then an order in an emergency is likely to become a final order. Any other jurisdictions that may have a claim to your case will be communicated with by a Texas court. The key here is that a court does not want to issue orders where it is not appropriate. Rather, courts will communicate with one another to ensure that decisions are being made which are in the best interest of your child.

If a Texas court begins your modification case and finds another court has proper jurisdiction then the Texas case will be paused. At this point, the Texas court will reach out to a court from another state to determine where proper jurisdiction lies. In a modification case for child custody visitation, a court in Texas may proceed if it determines it is the appropriate venue.

What are the most important reasons to modify a visitation order?

A material and substantial change must be a part of your case. That material and substantial change could be experienced by you, your co-parent, or your child. This is not a minor or insignificant change. Rather, this is a major change.  The major change must render the prior court order unusable or impractical. You must have evidence of the material and substantial change sufficient to convince a judge of the requested modification. 

Additionally, the requested modification must be in the best interest of your child. The best interest of your child is the guiding principle by which courts will judge you are modification based on. Even if a material and substantial change can be found in your case the best interests matter even more. Therefore, if a requested change is not in your child’s best interests, then the modification will not be granted by the court.

The best interest determination utilizes what are known as the “Holley” factors. These are set forth by a Texas Supreme Court case. Reviewing these factors with an experienced family law attorney is a reasonable step to take. You can learn how to prepare for your case and the factors a court judges your case by. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to sit down with one of our attorneys for a free-of-charge consultation.

Your relationship with your child may lead to a modification request 

Visitation orders allow you and your child to develop a meaningful relationship together. There is no substitute for being able to spend quality time with your son or daughter. As such, considering a modification of your court orders on visitation is no small matter. Rather, you should consider the ramifications to your life and that of your child. How do you seek to improve the quality of your child’s life by modifying visitation orders? This is the key question to ask yourself.

An unfortunate part of many parent-child relationships is the threat of alienation. Alienating behavior exists when one parent attempts to harm the relationship between their child and the other parent. This can be done in a variety of ways. When you begin to identify this type of circumstance it is important to act. Being excluded from the life of your child is a major reason why a modification may be justified.

Unfortunately, parental alienation is difficult to identify in some cases. However, the effect of parental alienation is the same in all circumstances. One parent’s relationship with the children is harmed. Your co-parent wants your relationship with your child to be damaged greatly. In that way, you would be removed from your child’s life. This behavior may occur before, during, and even after a child custody case.

Nip parental alienation in the bud before it causes damage

Inevitably, alienating behavior will cause damage to your relationship with your child. With that said, taking steps to eliminate this behavior is crucial. Modifying visitation orders is a direct means to change the situation which has led to alienating behavior. Limiting your co-parent’s time with your child may not be easy but it is likely necessary. His or her behavior has led to the sort of frustrations and challenges scene in your daily life.

Addressing these challenges takes effort and a plan. There is no way to avoid discussing these challenges. Talking to your parents directly can help. However, short of causing him or her to change their behavior it is likely that going to court becomes necessary.

Alcohol and drugs in their impact on the parent-child relationship

When your co-parent struggles with addiction to drugs or alcohol that almost certainly has the potential to meaningfully impact their relationship with your child. To that point, you need to focus on the challenges presented by this type of addiction. You need to take action. Being passive and choosing to watch as drugs and alcohol impact your family is a major mistake. An addict cannot be expected to respond well to you.

Identifying addictive behaviors and attempting to eliminate them is asking too much, perhaps. That is something for a professional therapist and your co-parent’s doctor to concern themselves with. The best you can hope for is to limit the impact of addiction on the lives of your children. Presenting a court with information about your co-parent’s addiction is the first step you would need to prepare for. From there, you may suggest alternative visitation structures to better help your child.

The types of changes to your visitation schedule depend upon your co-parent’s willingness to engage in counseling. His or her attempts to remain sober are a key part of this discussion and topic. Many parents are unable to make the necessary changes to their lives to incorporate their kids in a meaningful way. In that case, asking for a sole managing conservatorship may be in the best interests of your child. This allows for greater control from your perspective and less visitation time for your co-parent. Ultimately, this may be in the best interest of your co-parent as much as your child.

Moving as a part of a child custody visitation modification

One of the long-lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been increased mobility on the part of Americans. One of the major changes to the work landscape there has been the proliferation of remote jobs. Many of us can work from home now compared to days before the pandemic. Not only does this give employers more flexibility but employees benefit as well. Working remotely means living where you choose rather than living near your place of employment.

This has had major impacts on life for families. Many child custody visitation orders presume that your location and residence are stable. However, with remote work becoming more prevalent that may not be the case. One of the considerations you need to make with remote work is the ability of your family to facilitate the visitation orders. By moving somewhere, you cannot negate your parent’s ability to spend time with your children.

However, circumstances may change to the point where moving becomes highly advisable. A new job opportunity may present itself. Or a relationship may have blossomed which requires you to move. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan understands that remaining in one place may not be an option for your family. With that said, here are some considerations when it comes to modifying the visitation order due to an upcoming move.

Think first, move second

Before deciding to move it is wise to tap the brakes. This is good advice under most circumstances. However, it is especially true when you have a court order to contend with. Without a doubt, not being able to immediately up and move is a reality for a person living under court orders. However, bear in mind that this is done to benefit your child. He or she benefits from being able to have a relationship with you and your co-parent

We have all heard the saying that it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. This stems from the idea that in some circumstances you should simply move forward as soon as possible. However, it is not advisable to follow this advice when it comes to child custody visitation orders. Your decisions have consequences. As a result, do not presume that It will always be possible to beg forgiveness as someone in this context. Oftentimes, a court will not look the other way.

The bottom line is you need to be sure that what you are doing as far as a move is concerned would be allowed by a court. This starts with examining your court orders to determine what kind of orders are in place. These orders determine the amount of latitude you have when moving your family. Understanding the orders is critical. Having a copy of your court orders handy allows for you to make decisions based on specific knowledge of circumstances.

What is a geographic restriction?

One of the most significant questions you can ask yourself regarding child custody visitation orders relates to geographic restrictions. Geographic restrictions work to limit the geographic area that your child lives in. You and your co-parent state within your original orders where your child can live. The geographic restriction seeks to allow the non-custodial parent to have as much of an opportunity to build a relationship with their children as possible. This promotes stability and functionality in your home, as well.

There are reasons why a geographic restriction may need to be lifted. One of those reasons is the desire to move your family for any reason. Being the custodial parent means having your residence restricted. The same applies to the non-custodial parent. However, the geographic restriction typically helps the non-custodial parent on a primary basis. Imagine a situation where your co-parent was allowed to move with the children wherever he or she pleased. This puts your family in a position where you would need to move subject to the whims of your co-parent.

Lifting a geographic restriction is difficult. Much of the time a court inserts geographic restrictions into visitation orders even when the parties themselves do not ask for it. This is because courts understand that constant movement is not necessarily in the best interests of a child. Wanting to lift a geographic restriction is reasonable. However, before filing a modification case you need to have a plan.

Placing a geographic restriction

On the other hand, creating a geographic restriction could also be the object of your modification case. This occurs in circumstances where your co-parent has moved around with the children consistently. The non-custodial parent typically seeks more consistency when it comes to living arrangements. Not being able to develop a relationship with your child is a key reason to push for a modification.

Finding yourself in a position where you are constantly having to uproot your family to chase down your children is not ideal. A geographic restriction helps families like yours with cleaning structures in the home. Your children can come to expect a relationship with both parents when they live close together. Identifying strategies geared towards helping families is what a skilled family law attorney provides.

Before attempting to modify a visitation order it is important to have a plan geared towards accomplishing specific goals. Think through what you are asking the court to do. Modifying a court order can be a good idea. However, the idea must be able to function well for your family both now and in the future. When it comes to a modification of any kind the best interest of your child comes first. From there, any desired effects on your family should be considered. Taking into account all these circumstances helps to develop a plan geared towards the success of all parties involved.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan    

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm wants to get to know your case before they commit to work with you. They offer all potential clients a no-obligation, free consultation where you can discuss your case under the client-attorney privilege. This means that everything you say will be kept private and the firm will respectfully advise you at no charge. You can learn more about Texas divorce law and get a good idea of how you want to proceed with your case.

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