Dallas Custody and Modification Attorney

We are prepared to help you get custody orders from the court that are best for your children. Custody arrangements determine the schedule for the children at the houses of the parents, the rights and duties of parents, and what support is ordered for the children and paid by whom. Custody of children in Texas is a complicated matter. You should carefully choose a skilled attorney to help you litigate or negotiate a custody arrangement that works for your child.

Texas law presumes that awarding the parents joint custody of the child is in the best interest of the child.  Evidence to prove which parent should have the right to determine the primary domicile of the child, which is known informally as “primary custody”, depends on a number of factors.  The court will need evidence on numerous factors, such as who has been the primary caretaker of the child, what are the living arrangements, who has been bathing and putting the child to bed, taking the child to the doctor, making dinner, involving the child with appropriate people, bad decisions made by either or both parents, the existence of a pattern of family violence (if any), the work schedules of the parents, earning capacity of the parents and so on.  The court may also involve other professionals in the custody evaluation.  These professionals are most frequently psychologists, counselors, social workers, psychiatrists or lawyers.  Generally speaking, the court would order a social study into the specific circumstances of the parents’ homes which would be performed by a social worker or psychological professional.  Additionally, a psychological evaluation of either or both parents may be ordered.  An attorney may be appointed to represent the interests of the child, if the court has a concern that the child’s interests are not adequately represented by the parent or other person in the litigation.  Custody of younger children is not always granted to the mother, because men can show they are attentive nurturing parents. 

Texas has specified rights and duties for parents or other persons named as a “conservator” as assigned by a court in a custody case. Those rights and duties can be found in Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code. These rights will be specified in the divorce decree, a paternity order, or a suit affecting the parent child relationship (SAPCR). In fact, Texas law favors the appointment of parents as joint managing conservators. See Texas Family Code §153.131 (b). 

Custody options under Texas law are that parents or other persons are named as joint managing conservators when that is in the best interest of the children and there is no history of family violence. This is known as joint custody.  The other option is that one person is named as the sole managing conservator, while the other parent or person is named as a possessory conservator.  In both situations, the court will identify the rights and duties of the conservators of the children usually by stating who has the right to determine the primary residence of the child, as well as rights to consent to medical care involving surgery, the right to consent to counseling for the child, the right to have possession of the child’s passport, among many other very important rights governing the children.

Modification of Child Support: It is normal to modify the terms of support for a child after years have passed. Child support may be modified to increase support after at least three years have passed from the prior order and support would change by $100 or 20% more per month.  Texas Family Code § 156.401. Consequently, support might be modified to increase the amount of support that is paid for a child. On the other hand, In case the person paying child support loses a job, it would be necessary that a motion to modify be filed to reduce child support.  Filing a motion to modify to reduce your obligation to pay child support if you lose a job is necessary.  This is true because you would continue to owe child support ordered until it is changed by the court.

Modification of Custody Orders: Often, years after a divorce or original custody order, modification of the custody arrangement will become necessary. Sometimes the custody arrangement should change because the child should live primarily with the other parent or person. Sometimes the needs of the child has changed. The custody arrangement of a child may be modified by agreement or through litigation.

Emergency Modification of Custody: Unfortunately, sometimes a parent or the person with custody of the child develops a health problem or a substance abuse problem. In that case, the child could be in danger. If a child is in danger, an emergency motion to modify the custody arrangement should be filed, a temporary restraining order sought and an immediate hearing from the court be set to protect the child.  An emergency order such as this is only available if the child’s present circumstances would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development, and a change of custody is in the best interest of the child. Texas Family Code §156.006.  This is a very complicated process, and any person filing an emergency motion would have to prepare an affidavit including specific information illustrating actual danger to the child to support such a lawsuit.

Custody orders dictate terms of support, rights and duties of parents or other persons with custody, and visitation schedules for children. Usual custody orders are lengthy and detailed to protect the child as well as specify details between the conservators. You should hire a skilled attorney to assist you with these very complicated issues.