modifying conservatorship orders Texas

In the dynamic and often complex realm of family law, the modification of conservatorship orders is a critical aspect that reflects the changing circumstances of children and their families. The Texas legal framework, through a combination of statutory provisions and judicial precedents, offers a comprehensive approach to ensuring that these orders serve the best interests of the child, adapting as family situations evolve.

Legal Standards for Modification

Central to the process of modifying conservatorship orders in Texas is a key provision in the Texas Family Code. It states: “a trial court may modify a child support order if, inter alia, ‘the circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other party affected by the order have materially and substantially changed’ since the previous order” (Tex. Fam. Code § 156.101(a)(1)). This legal standard emphasizes the necessity for the legal system to be responsive to significant shifts in family dynamics, thereby minimizing the frequency of litigation.

Evaluating Changes in Circumstances

The determination of what constitutes a “material and substantial change” is deliberately flexible, allowing courts to make decisions that best fit the unique situations of each family. The courts’ approach to this evaluation is well encapsulated in the case of Arredondo v. Betancourt, which asserts: “In deciding whether a material and substantial change of circumstances has occurred, a fact finder is not confined to rigid or definite guidelines; instead, the determination is fact specific and must be made according to the circumstances as they arise” (383 S.W.3d 730, 734-35). This principle ensures that the judicial process remains adaptable and sensitive to the nuances of individual cases.

The Role of the Child in Conservatorship Decisions

Texas law also prioritizes the input of the child in matters affecting their conservatorship. Specifically, the Family Code mandates that for children aged twelve or older, “the Family Code requires a trial court to conduct an in-chambers interview of a child… to determine the child’s wishes as to conservatorship” (Tex. Fam. Code § 153.009(a)). This statutory requirement highlights the importance of considering the child’s perspective while maintaining the court’s discretion in deciding what ultimately serves the child’s best interest.

Court’s Discretion in Conservatorship Determinations

The broad discretion granted to the court in conservatorship decisions enables it to weigh various factors, including those gleaned from interviews with the child. This discretion is crucial, as it allows the court to make well-informed decisions that prioritize the child’s welfare, as supported by the precedent that “the trial court has broad discretion in making conservatorship and possession determinations” (In re A.C., 387 S.W.3d at 678).

Factors Influencing the Best Interest of the Child

When assessing what arrangement serves the child’s best interests, Texas courts are guided by a list of factors established in Holley v. Adams. These include:

  1. The desires of the child
  2. The emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future
  3. The emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future
  4. The parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody
  5. The programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interest of the child
  6. The plans for the child by the individuals seeking custody
  7. The stability of the home or proposed placement
  8. The acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one
  9. Any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent

(544 S.W.2d 367, 371-72)

These factors collectively provide a framework for a thorough and holistic evaluation of the child’s current and future needs.


The modification of conservatorship orders in Texas is designed to ensure that children’s needs are met as their familial situations change. By integrating statutory guidelines with judicial discretion and the consideration of the child’s own wishes, the legal system strives to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child. For families navigating these changes, understanding and applying the Holley factors can be pivotal in advocating for an arrangement that best supports the child’s well-being.

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