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Guidelines for Modifying Conservatorship and Possession and Access

A suit to modify the parent-child relationship can be filed after a court has entered a final order; for example, a divorce decree naming one parent as the custodial parent or a final order in a paternity suit establishing the rights and duties of the parents may be modified by filing a Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship.

Modification of Prior Texas Orders

A petition seeking the modification of a prior order rendered in the State of Texas shall be filed in the court of continuing and exclusive jurisdiction.  For example, if the original case was filed in the 98th Judicial District Court of Travis County, Texas and a final order was rendered out of that court, then the modification needs to be filed in the 98th Judicial District Court of Travis County.

Modification of Out of State Orders

For out of state orders, it is not required to register the order for modification of conservatorship, although it is good practice to register the order in case modification of child support becomes an issue in the modification proceedings.  The new suit to modify the prior order is normally filed in the Texas county where the child resides at the time of filing suit.

General Rules

A prior order can be modified if the modification is in the best interest of the child and one of the following is true: 1) the parties agree to the modification; 2) a child over the age of 12 has expressed to the court in chambers a preference to live with the non-custodial parent; 3) the parent having the right to designate the child’s residence has voluntarily relinquished that right for at least six months; or 4) there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the entry of the prior order.  The "material and substantial change in circumstances" is the most often used method of seeking a modification.

Additionally, due to the modern reality that families often move, even when a prior Texas order is the subject of a modification suit, the court that had jurisdiction over that initial order may in fact lose jurisdiction; in particular, if a child has resided in another county for at least 6 months prior to the filing of the modification suit, then jurisdiction and venue is found in the new county.

Caveat on Modifications

The content contained within this section is intended to serve as a brief primer on modifications.  However, modification suits can be and often are complicated matters, it is strongly advised that you seek legal advise from an attorney if you believe that you will be initiating or defending a modification suit for conservatorship, visitation, or child support.