In a recent decision, a Texas Court of Appeals helped clarify what constitutes a material and substantial change in circumstances for the purposes of modifying a custody order. Despite guidance from the court, modifying a custody agreement remains a complicated process, whether you live in Texas or Georgia. If you believe that your custody arrangement is no longer workable, it is critical to speak with an experienced complex child custody attorney who can walk you through the modification process.

The Case

In the Interest of T.A.M. involved a parent’s attempt to modify a custody order that gave the child’s father the exclusive rights to designate the child’s residence. The mother had relocated and obtained a new job, facts that she argued constituted a change in circumstances material and substantial enough to merit modification of the custody agreement. She then requested that the court allow the child to relocate with her to Austin. After the trial, the judge found that the petitioner had failed to demonstrate that her circumstances had changed enough to justify a modification of the order. However, the court did state that the petitioner’s financial circumstances had in fact materially and substantially changed, and as a result of which, the mother would be required to pay child support.

Defining a Material and Substantial Change in Circumstances

The petitioner subsequently appealed the judge’s decision, arguing that a change in circumstances for the purpose of child support also constituted a change in circumstances for custody purposes. However, the appeals court disagreed, stating that custody does not hinge on financial considerations. For instance, material changes could include any of the following events:

  • The remarriage of one parent;
  • A change in home surroundings;
  • One parent’s health problems;
  • One parent’s failure to appear at custody hearings;
  • Incarceration;
  • A refusal to allow visitation with the other parent;
  • The negative influence of one parent on the child;
  • Mistreatment of a child by a parent or stepparent; and
  • A parent’s becoming an improper person to exercise custody.

According to the court’s opinion, when involved in a custody modification proceeding, judges must conduct a broad, fact-specific inquiry that encompasses any major changes affecting a child’s emotional and physical well-being or a parent’s ability to support the child. Finally, the court stated that because child support is governed by a different set of circumstances and requirements than those which govern custody decisions, it was not inconsistent for the trial judge to find that although the petitioner’s financial situation had materially and substantially changed, her overall situation had not altered for purposes of modifying the custody agreement.

Contact an Experienced Child Custody Attorney Today

If you believe that your life circumstances, or your ex-spouse’s circumstances, have materially or substantially changed in such a way that modification of a Georgia custody agreement would be justified, please contact the dedicated law offices of Vayman & Teitelbaum. We have offices set up conveniently in Alpharetta, Lawrenceville, Cumming, and Marietta to serve clients in those areas, as well as surrounding areas in Georgia. Feel free to reach out to one of our experienced Georgia family law attorneys at (678) 736-7700 today for a free consultation.