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.

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As a result of his illustrious career, Dr. Dre’s net worth currently sits at a whopping $820 million – but maybe not for long. After 24 years, Dr. Dre’s wife, Nicole Young, is filing for divorce from the producer, rapper, and hip-hop icon. Reports indicate that the couple did not execute a premarital agreement prior to their 1996 marriage, which opens up Dr. Dre to significant financial exposure. In the absence of a premarital agreement, California – a community property state much like Texas – provides that property accumulated during marriage is owned by the community estate. Put simply, all of Dr. Dre’s income during the marriage, from his royalties as a solo rapper to his profits from Beats by Dre, is up for grabs. This means that Dr. Dre could see his hard-earned fortune be split in half right before his eyes in the coming months. Continue Reading ›

On June 26, 2020, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a ruling that is sure to have a major impact on future non-parent custody cases in the state of Texas. In the case of In re C.J.C., the Supreme Court of Texas found that the presumption that it is in the best interest of a child to award possession to a fit parent versus a non-parent extends to modification cases.[1] This decision is certain to be seen as a major win for parents, as the Court reinforced the long-held notion that in most cases, a parent having custody of their child is best for the child.

The case involved grandparents of the child and the boyfriend of the child’s deceased mother attempting to modify the possession of the child and gain at least some court-ordered possession from the child’s father. The trial court found that the boyfriend was entitled to some possession and even some rights, such as the right to consent to emergency medical decisions.[2] The child’s father appealed this decision. Continue Reading ›

Even when society seems like it has come to a halt, life does not and neither does the legal system. In this age of social distancing, self-quarantining, and virtual hangouts, Texas courts have been on the forefront of keeping the legal system accessible to everyone. This is especially true in the realm of family law where courts have employed virtual hearings and trials Continue Reading ›

As COVID-19 (Coronavirus) becomes more and more ingrained as a daily part of our news cycle, its ability to affect our day-to-day lives continues. As of Monday, March 16, a total of 48 public school districts plus several religious academies across North Texas have elected to extend spring breaks until March 26 or longer. For many parents this begs the question, what do these school closures mean for my possession schedule?

According to the judges in Dallas County, Collin County, Denton County, and Tarrant County, the Standard Possession Schedule should follow the originally published school calendars, meaning there will be no extensions of time periods for parents who have the Spring Vacation possession due solely to recent changes.

As the situation and precautions surrounding this global pandemic continue to evolve, more questions regarding possession schedules and the potential need for additional childcare if schools remain closed will inevitably arise. Disagreements regarding the custody or possession of a child can be stressful and emotionally charged. We recommend consulting with your attorney regarding any questions concerning selecting substitute pick-up or drop-off locations or establishing alternative schedules before making any decisions with your co-parent or ex-spouse.

Sometimes in a Texas custody case, the court may find it appropriate to place certain restrictions on a parent’s access to the children.  In time and with changed circumstances, it may be in the children’s best interest to remove those restrictions to allow the children to spend more time with that parent.  In a recent case, a mother appealed an order modifying visitation.

The parents had two children during their marriage.  The mother moved to another town and filed for divorce.  The decree required the father to use a Soberlink alcohol monitoring device before and during visitation.  The court ordered the father’s visitation would be supervised in Hidalgo County, but he would be allowed unsupervised visits beginning in August 2018 when the youngest child turned three.

The mother petitioned to modify the parent-child relationship to postpone the unsupervised visits.  She argued unsupervised visits were not in the children’s best interest because the oldest child had significant speech delays and the younger child lacked emotional maturity.  She also alleged the father failed one of his alcohol tests.

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A court may modify a Texas custody order only in certain circumstances.  One of the most common reasons to modify an order is that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the previous order and a modification is in the child’s best interest.  Whether a material and substantial change has occurred is a question of fact. The party seeking modification has the burden of proving a material and substantial change has occurred.

In a recent case, a father challenged denial of his petition for modification because he had not been allowed to present evidence to support it.  A 2010 order named the parents joint managing conservators, with the mother having the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence.

The child moved in with his father, his paternal grandmother and his step-grandfather following his mother’s death in 2015.  The grandparents filed a petition to modify the 2010 custody order based on the mother’s death, as well as the father’s behaviors they claimed significantly impaired the child’s safety and well-being.  The grandparents asked to be named temporary joint managing conservators with the right to designate the child’s primary residence.  They also asked the father be denied access to the child, or alternatively, that his access to the child be supervised.

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Generally, a Texas child custody order can be modified only if the modification is in the child’s best interest, and there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances. Family violence may constitute a change in circumstances warranting a modification.

In a recent case, a mother challenged a modification, alleging that there was insufficient evidence of family violence to support a finding of a change in circumstances. When the child was an infant, the parents entered into an agreed order, appointing both of them as joint managing conservators, with the mother having the exclusive right to designate the primary residence.

The mother was subsequently charged with assaulting the father’s girlfriend.  In December 2016, the mother took the child to California to live with her mother and other children.

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Texas family law presumes a husband is the father of his wife’s children born during the marriage. A presumed father may challenge paternity, but he generally must do so by the child’s fourth birthday.  Adjudication of the paternity of a child with a presumed father may occur later, however, if a court finds the presumed father did not live with or have sexual intercourse with the mother when the child was conceived or if misrepresentations led the presumed father to a mistaken belief he was the biological father.  Tex. Fam. Code § 160.607.

A husband recently challenged a trial court order including a child as a child of the marriage after he presented evidence of a DNA test showing he was not the father.  The daughter was born in 2004 and the son in 2012.  In 2013, the husband obtained a paternity test confirming he was not the daughter’s biological father.  He filed for divorce in 2017.  In his petition, he listed both children as “children of the marriage” and sought the right to designate their primary residence.  He sought child support and medical support from the wife for both children.  The wife also sought child support, medical support, and the right to designate primary residence.

Each spouse alleged the other had been unfaithful.  The husband presented the DNA test results to support his allegation.  When his attorney asked if he was asking the court to say that the daughter was not his child, he indicated he was not and agreed he accepted parental responsibility for her.  He indicated the purpose of admitting the paternity test was not to deny paternity, but to show that his wife had been unfaithful.  Both parents testified the girl had not been told she was not the husband’s biological child.

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