What are geographic restrictions and how important are they? And what does it mean when your parenting plan is silent as to a geographic restriction?
It is the public policy of Texas to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with their parents, even after the parents have ended their relationship. In order to make sure that children of divorced parents or parents who are no longer together have continuing and frequent contact with both parents, the Courts almost always restrict the residence of the child to a specific area.
Typically, the Courts will restrict the child’s residence to the county the court is located in and will sometimes include the counties immediately surrounding that county. So for a Tarrant County case, the primary conservator typically must maintain the child’s residence within Tarrant County and surrounding counties that touch Tarrant County. This ensures that the parents live close enough to one another that the child will be able to see both parents easily and frequently.
So what happens if you’re ready to move for a new job, new relationship, to help with a sick relative or ready for a “fresh start”? If your parenting plan says that you can designate the child’s primary residence without regard to geographic location, then you’re in luck and free to move anywhere you want without the need to go back to court. If your parenting plan says that you have to designate the child’s primary residence within a geographically restricted area, then you’ll have to request permission from the Court to lift the geographic restriction to allow you to move with your child. Similarly, a parenting plan that is silent as to a geographic restriction does not give a parent freedom to designate the child’s residence just anywhere.
The Texas Family Code and the Courts require that Orders be very specific if the intent is to allow a parent to designate the child’s primary residence without regard to a geographic restriction. The Order must contain the magic language that the parent has the right to designate the residence of the child without regard to geographic location.
Make sure you know what restrictions you’ve agreed to or the Court has put in place for your child’s residence and how that could affect your time with your child.