When a parent wants to modify a Texas custody order, they generally must show that the change is in the child’s best interest and that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the prior order. Whether a material and substantial change has occurred is fact-specific and varies depending on the circumstances of the case. Recently, a father successfully argued that false allegations of sexual abuse and the resulting investigations constituted a material and substantial change in circumstances justifying a custody modification.
The father petitioned to modify the Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship to give him the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence. The previous order gave the mother that right and included a modified standard possession order until the child turned five, at which time the father would begin a standard possession order.
The mother expressed concerns the child may have been sexually abused during the first extended summer visitation with the father under the standard possession order. The father let the child go back to the mother’s home for a weekend because she was homesick. The mother saw bruises on the child’s inner thigh and pubic bone and the child had a urinary tract infection. The mother took the child to a clinic and then for an examination by a sexual assault nurse examiner (“SANE”). She also took her for a forensic interview at the child Advocacy Center.