When a Child Custody Order is Confusing | Schneider Law Firm, P.C. | iStock-951349602

When a Child Custody Order Is Confusing

We sometimes hear from parents who are confused and upset by the court orders they received from Texas courts. For example, a child custody order might say different things on different pages, or it might be written in a way that doesn’t make sense or that’s too vague to follow.
The court order makes child custody and visitation a challenge, and it can cause disagreements between the parents. Sometimes, one parent accuses the other of not following the order when that parent was just following a different part of the order. Not following the order is called “being in contempt.” It’s a serious problem that can get you into deep trouble in Texas courts.

A Motion to Clarify

If your child custody order doesn’t make sense to you or the other parent, or if it’s causing conflict in your custody arrangement, there are actions you can take. Texas law allows parents and their attorneys to file something called a “motion to clarify.” The motion asks a court to clarify an order if the court finds that the order is not specific enough and that one parent could be held in contempt if the order was clarified.
Your lawyer can help you seek a motion to clarify before the court finds that one parent is in contempt, as part of a contempt proceeding, or after a denial of a motion for contempt.

What a Motion to Clarify Doesn’t Do

When the court grants the motion to clarify, it simply rules to change the order to be less confusing. There are things that a motion to clarify does not do, including:

  • Substantively change the order: A change in a court order is called a “child custody modification.” If you would like the order changed so that the terms of the arrangement are different, seeking a modification is probably a better fit for you. Talk with your attorney.
  • Apply retroactively to hold a parent in contempt: The order only applies going forward, so you can’t ask the court to clarify the order, and then immediately hold the other parent accountable for not following it in the past.

Get a Lawyer’s Help for Confusing Child Custody Orders

When a child custody order is confusing, it’s best to get legal help. Following only your interpretation of the order can lead to trouble. And if the other parent isn’t following the order because of confusion, get legal help too. Your attorney can protect your interests and your relationship with your child. Start by calling the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125.

Sources:
https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.157.htm
https://texaslawhelp.org/article/clarifying-visitation-orders-answers-common-questions#toc-2