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Legal Information: Texas


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April 10, 2018

If a custody order is already in place, how can I get it changed?

To change a conservatorship or possession and access order that is already in place, you need to file a motion with the court.  Generally, you can file to change or modify a conservatorship or possession and access order if it would be in the best interest of the child and:

  • the circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other party affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the order was put in place; or
  • the child is at least 12 years old and has filed with the court, in writing, the name of the person who the child prefers to have the exclusive right to decide where s/he will live; or
  • the conservator who has the exclusive right to decide where the child will live has voluntarily given up the primary care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months.*
    • This subsection does not apply to a conservator who has the exclusive right to decide where the child will live and who has temporarily give up the primary care and possession of the child to another person during the conservator's military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty.

To file a motion for a change in conservatorship or possession and access, you must fill out certain forms and return them to the court. You can visit your local courthouse to obtain copies of all the needed paper work.  The court clerk may be able to answer some questions you have about the paperwork but cannot provide legal advice.  You might want to consider contacting a lawyer for help with this.  You can find information on lawyer referral services and free or low-cost legal services at our TX Finding a Lawyer page.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 156.101

Can I change the state/county where the case is being heard?

Possibly, although there are many factors that a judge will consider when deciding whether or not to transfer a case to another state.  To read more, go to our general Custody page and read our Changing a final custody order section.  Please visit our TX Finding a Lawyer page for legal help if you have already moved out of state (with court permission) and are now seeking to transfer your case to that new state.

If you move to another county within Texas, you may be able to transfer the case to that new county.  A judge can grant your request if the child has lived in that county for at least 6 months and if the judge believes that it is more convenient for the parties and witnesses.* 

* Tex. Fam. Code § 155.202

If there is a custody order in place, can I take my kids out of the state?

It depends.  Generally, in most states, a parent can take his/her kids out of the state for a brief trip as long as there is no order prohibiting it and so long as it does not interfere with the other parent’s visitation rights.  However, if you are uncertain whether a planned trip may violate your custody order, please consult with a lawyer before leaving.

If you want to permanently move out of state (or move within the state to a distant location that would interfere with the other parent's visitation schedule), then you may have to return to court to try to modify the order to get permission to move and to change the terms of the court order.  As with any modification of a custody order, in order to get permission to move, you must prove to the judge that moving would be in the best interest of your child.  As with all custody issues, it is probably best to talk to a lawyer about this matter.  Please visit our TX Finding a Lawyer page.

Can a parent who does not have custody have access to the child's records?

Generally, yes. Both the custodial and noncustodial parents will have access to your child's records, unless a court order says otherwise. These records include anything relating to your child, such as school records, medical and dental records. If you do not want the other parent to have access to these records, you must convince the judge that there is a good reason for her/him to limit this access.* Also, if you are living in a confidential address due to fear of the batterer, you may want to consider using a P.O. box address at the child's doctor or school, if possible. Another option is to participate in the Texas Attorney General’s Address Confidentiality Program. This way, if the batterer does get access to the child's records, s/he cannot use the records to find out where you are living.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 153.073