Modifying Child Custody Orders in Texas

Sep 04

Modifying Child Custody Orders in Texas

Modifying a Prior Custody Order

Modifying an earlier custody determination under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is governed by §152.202 and §152.203 of the Texas Family Code. § 152.202 outlines Texas’s exclusive continuing jurisdiction over custody determinations and §153.203 describes how Texas courts may not modify child custody determinations made by the courts of another state. If a Texas court has issued a final order in an earlier determination of custody under proper jurisdiction, then that specific court has continuing exclusive jurisdiction (CEJ) over future custody determination or modifications. Basically, the Court that initially determined the custody order will still have jurisdiction to determine modifications as long as the initial order was made under proper jurisdiction.

Emergency Jurisdiction in Texas

A Texas court has temporary emergency jurisdiction if:

  1. the child is a present in Texas and
  2. the child has been abandoned OR the child needs to be protected because the child, or a sibling or parent of the child, is being subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.

“Impending” mistreatment can be shown by the party in addition to actual mistreatment or abuse. There are certain circumstances in which an emergency custody determination may become a final custody determination. In order for this to happen:

  1. there must be no earlier child-custody determination enforceable under the UCCJEA;
  2. no other proceeding may have taken place in another court have jurisdiction under §152.201, §152.202, or §152.203;
  3. the emergency order must state that it will become a final order; and Texas becomes the new home state of the child

Regardless, Texas courts are required to communicate with the courts of another jurisdiction as soon as they find out that proceedings have been properly filed there, so that the emergency may be resolved. Texas courts may not exercise jurisdiction if a custody proceeding has been started in another state with jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, unless the proceeding in the other state has been terminated or is stayed by the court of the other state because a Texas court is a more convenient forum under §152.207. If a Texas court does begin a custody proceeding and finds that the proceeding has been commenced in another state with jurisdiction, the Texas court should stay its proceeding and communicate with the court of the other state. However in a proceeding to modify a child custody determination, a Texas court has the options to:

  1. stay the proceeding
  2. enjoin the parties from continuing with the proceeding
  3. proceed with modification if the Texas court deems it appropriate

A Texas court may decline to exercise its jurisdiction if it determines that it is an inconvenient forum and that the appropriate forum is the court of another state. This issue may be raised upon a party’s motion, the court’s own motion, or request of another court. Before making a decision on whether it is an inconvenient forum, the Texas court must consider whether another state may appropriately exercise jurisdiction. The court should consider all relevant factors including: occurrence or likelihood of occurrence of domestic violence, finances of the parties, how long the child has lived outside of Texas, distance between Texas court and the other state’s court, and the location of evidence necessary to the litigation. If you are looking to modify your child custody orders in Texas, its in your best interest to speak to an experienced attorney who will be able to guide you through this process and explain potential outcomes in your specific case.

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