The ABCs of child relocation in Texas

When Texas parents get divorced, it is not uncommon that one of them will eventually wish to move to another county or state, especially if a new job is at stake. However, issues may arise if this particular parent also wishes to take a child with him or her – specifically, a child subject to an existing child custody order.

Geographical restrictions on a child’s residence

In Texas, a parent’s ability to relocate with a child is often dependent upon the child custody arrangement initially established following his or her divorce. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the basics of child custody in order to fully grasp the intricacies of child relocation.

While Texas law recognizes many different custodial arrangements, joint custody – also referred to as joint managing conservatorship – is one of the most popular. Indeed, it is even presumed under state law that it is in the best interest of the child to appoint both parents as joint managing conservators, although this presumption can be rebutted if there exists a history of family violence.

If divorced parents are able to reach their own joint managing conservatorship agreement, they can file a parenting plan outlining this arrangement with the court. Notably, this parenting plan can specify that a child’s residence will remain within a particular geographical area, such as a specific county, and in some circumstances, any contiguous counties.

Alternatively, the court may be asked to step in if the parents are unable to reach an accord, in which case the court will determine custody arrangements. In many instances, custody orders established by the court will also place limits on a parent’s ability to relocate with a child outside of a specified geographical area.

Child custody modification needed to relocate

When a child’s residence has been restricted to a particular area in Texas – either by the court or by the parents’ agreement – one parent cannot simply pick up and move with the child outside of that geographical area without first getting approval from the court. Typically, this means that the parent wishing to move must seek a court order modifying the initial child custody arrangement.

However, even if the original parenting plan or custody order does not restrict a child’s residence to a specific geographical location, that does not mean one parent can relocate with a child without regard to the other parent’s wishes. In fact, a parent opposing such a move can file a motion challenging the relocation as well as obtain a temporary restraining order to prevent it until a hearing can be held.

Given the many complexities of Texas law, it is often best to consult a knowledgeable child custody attorney if you are currently engaged in a dispute related to child relocation. An experienced attorney can help explain your rights and options as well as assist with filing any relevant motions. Indeed, the importance of seeking expert counsel in such matters cannot be overstated.