Frequently Asked Questions
The current court order continues until the judge approves a modification. All parties under a court order are required to follow the order. Failure to follow the order, with certain exceptions, can result in contempt of the court’s order, and the punishment could include fines and jail time. If talking to the parent doesn’t work and the danger to the child is immediate, call 9-1-1 (for an emergency) or Child Protective Services at 1 (800)-252-5400 (if you suspect the child is being abused or neglected). If the parent shows up for visitation and is intoxicated or showing other signs of danger, call the police and report the incident.
If you and the parents are having a disagreement, see if the parties will voluntarily go to mediation or ask the court to order all parties into mediation. Read more about mediation here: Mediation and Mediation Alternatives.
Your next step may be to seek a protective order and modification of the current order to a more restrictive schedule. Talk to an attorney about your options, call the Access and Visitation hotline, or visit www.texaslawhelp.org for do-it-yourself forms.
See if your court order has a “geographic restriction,” which means the custodial parent cannot move outside a certain area. If you need a copy of your court order, go to the district clerk’s office in the county where you got your court order. This is most likely the county where your child was living when you got the court order). The district clerk’s office can look up your court order by the Cause Number or your name or Social Security number, and can give you a copy.
If there is a geographic restriction, the custodial parent will be disobeying the court order by moving outside of the designated area. In this case, you can attempt to work it out, or ask the court to order both of you into mediation or take steps to enforce your court order.
Read more about enforcing a court order.
If there is no geographic restriction in your order, you can ask the court to modify or change your order to require the other parent to stay in a certain city or county or geographic area.
The Attorney General’s Office cannot help you get a geographic restriction.
Parents can expect pre‐teens and teens, at certain ages and levels of maturity, to negotiate with both parents about their living arrangements. One solution is to build into the plan some “wild card” days for the child to expand or contract time inside an otherwise fixed schedule. There are many reasons a child may tell the parent they want to live with the other parent. While some children feel may try to control their living environment, it is best for parents to decide where their children will live. Parents who can agree on a plan before meeting together with the child to discuss it, show that mom and dad are a united front, even when they live in separate households.
Some courts may consider the wishes of children older than 12 when deciding where they should live. Most parents do not want to put the child in the middle by asking the child to choose between mom and dad. The judge does not have to agree with the child and make the change. The child’s preference is one of many things that a judge considers when deciding where a child should live. The judge may appoint a neutral third party to look into the dispute and make a recommendation. Fees for this service are divided between the parties to the case.
If you want to become the primary parent, you must file a motion to modify with the court, asking the judge to make you the primary conservator. You must convince the court that the change is in the child’s best interest, which can sometimes be difficult. Contact an attorney about the changes you want to make to your order or go to TexasLawHelp.org for do-it-yourself information.
If the other parent has voluntarily given the child to you and/or the child has been living with you for at least 6 months, it may be easier to become the custodial parent. (This is not true if the only reason you are taking care of the child is the other parent is on military deployment.) The OAG may be able to help you get a Notice of Change of Status.
If the managing conservator voluntarily gives the child to you, you can seek help from the OAG. Go here to read more about how to do that.
If the parent does not agree that you should be managing conservator, it can be a little harder. You must prove that circumstances have changed and living with you is in the child’s best interest.
A court would be more likely to appoint you as a managing conservator if the parent has voluntarily given the child to you or another person or agency.
Contact an attorney if you want to be the managing conservator. An attorney can help you file a motion to modify the court order. Read more about motions to modify here. Check with your local library or law library to find forms you need to file.
If you think that the child is in serious and immediate danger, contact 911 (in the case of an emergency) and/or Child Protective Services at 1 (800)-252-5400 if you believe the child is being abused or neglected.
In cases involving family violence, you may also be able to get emergency relief in the form of a protective order. You should follow the protective order with a suit to modify conservatorship.
If you are a conservator, you have standing to ask the court to modify or change a court order. Learn more about modification.
A caregiver is an adult who is present in the home and supervises and cares for a child.
There are different reasons a non-parent may want to learn more about getting a court order or changing a court order. Sometimes, a non-parent may take care of a child without a court order giving that person any parental rights or responsibilities. If the child was given to you by the custodial parent so you would care for the child, you may be able to ask a court to give you additional rights. If you are not a biological parent but you are doing everything for the child that the parent would normally do, you can also ask for additional rights.
If you do not want to go through the Attorney General’s Office and the parent or relative voluntarily gave the child to you, hire an attorney or contact your local law library. Additionally, call the Access and Visitation Hotline at 1 (866) 292-4636 for help in how to ask the court for additional rights. A court order says where the child is to live. Court orders that document agreements between parties help avoid conflicts that could arise in the future.
Read more about Modification of Visitation.