Moving with Custody Arrangements
If you are a custodial parent who wants to relocate, or a noncustodial parent who wants to prevent the children from relocating, there are things you need to know about Texas law and the process involved. Although there are no Texas statutes articulating standards specific to custodial parent relocation, there are general principles courts follow in deciding whether to grant or deny a petition for relocation
Under the Texas Family Law Code, both parents are expected and encouraged to have a continuing relationship with their children and to share in parenting decisions even when they are divorced. In keeping with these principles, most final divorce decrees include a provision that the custodial parent must live within a certain geographic area. If the Final Order has a domicile restriction and the custodial parent wants to relocate, that parent must petition the Court for a modification of the order to allow the relocation.
When Both Parents Agree to Relocation
The reality is that a Court won’t enforce a domicile restriction if nobody files a Motion for Enforcement, complaining that the restriction has been violated. If both parents informally agree to the relocation, and there is a geographic restriction in the final order, they should put their agreement in writing and file it with the court. The agreement should include the reasons for the relocation and what the plan is for visitation. If other family members, such as grandparents, have visitation rights, the plan must also include them and how the relocating parent will provide for their visitation. Without a written agreement, the visiting parent might have an opportunity later to bring the Motion for Enforcement for the violation of the domicile restriction.
When the Non-custodial Parent Objects to the Relocation
If the visiting parent does not consent to a relocation and the custodial parent files a Motion to Modify to be able to move, the visiting parent will find themselves in a lawsuit. As with any other suit, it will be tried before a Judge (or possibly a jury) if it is not settled before then.
Factors the Court (or jury) considers in making its final decision include:
- The reasons for the move. Is the relocation being made in good faith, such as a career opportunity, or is there any indication of parental alienation involved? Is the desire to relocate for personal reasons to accommodate a new spouse, or will the relocation benefit the children economically, educationally or emotionally?
- How disruptive will the move be to the non-custodial parent’s relationship with the child? The parent desiring the move must show how visitation with the non-custodial parent will be maintained. Specific solutions should be presented and the relocating parent may be required to pay travel expenses for the other parent to visit or for the children to visit that parent. The court will also look at the relationship the non-custodial parent currently has with the children and if there has been sporadic visitation or violations of court orders.
- How will the relocation affect relationships with other family members? Will grandparents or step-siblings with whom the child has a relationship and regular contact be adversely impacted? Does the relocating parent have a plan for how those relationships can be maintained?
- Will the relocation disrupt the children’s education or involvement in extra-curricular activities? The best interest of the children is the guiding principle for the court in whether to allow the move.
- Wishes of the children. Although not definitive, depending on the age of the children, the court may interview them in chambers to determine how they feel about the move, why they want to move or why they object to it.
- Any other factor the court deems relevant. The court will consider any relevant information and may even order psychological evaluations of the children if there is a question about how the relocation will affect them and whether or not it is in their best interest.
If the court determines that the children will benefit from the relocation, such that it is in their best interest, and it is not being done solely to meet the needs of the relocating parent, the petition to allow the relocation will be granted.
Whether you are a parent who needs to relocate or one who wants to prevent the custodial parent from moving away with the children, contact Texas family law attorney Jeff Anderson. He has the experience you need to help you pursue your case.
No-fault Grounds for Divorce
Texas provides for a no-fault divorce. That means that nobody need to be at fault for a divorce to be granted. Instead, the divorce may be based on “insupportability” when there is no “reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” Many people think of this as “irreconcilable differences”. But if there is fault, the divorce can also be granted on those grounds.