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The Impact of Relocation on Child Custody cases in Texas

It is well known that Houston is a city of transplants. Likely, you or your family are not from Houston originally but instead moved to the area from another city, state, or country. Couple this fact with the transportability of many jobs and relocating to a new place is not the daunting concept that it may have been even twenty-five years ago.

In the context of child custody cases, relocation is a subject where there is oftentimes no middle ground to negotiate around. As a result, many court cases in Harris and the surrounding counties center around relocation disputes. If you are divorcing and do not plan to move far from the home where you and your spouse lived together then there most likely will not be many issues that cannot be settled upon outside of court when it comes to subjects like a visitation of your children. However, if either you or your spouse intend to relocate after your divorce to a more distant place, a compromise may not be possible.

Whether it is for a job or any other important circumstance, sometimes relocation is unavoidable. In some instances, money is an issue and a new job must be found to help pay for costs associated with the divorce. Or if you need to move and your current area is too expensive for you to remain in, a new home must be located. I’ve seen many clients move to be closer to their extended family for moral support after a divorce has concluded.

What is a geographical restriction?

In Texas, your ability to relocate with your child to a different city or state will oftentimes depend upon the orders from the court on where your child can live. Typically you and your spouse will be named joint managing conservators of your child (commonly called joint custody). There is a presumption under our state laws on custody that it is in the best interest of your child for both parents to be named joint managing conservators.

Typically you and your spouse will agree to your parenting plan without the assistance of a judge. That plan will need to be put into writing in the form of a Final Decree of Divorce so that it is ready for a judge to sign off on. This parenting plan will form the “marching orders” that you and your spouse will look to for guidance on raising your child and cooperating until further order from the court or until your child graduates from high school.

For our purposes in this discussion of relocation, a parenting plan can specify a certain geographic area where a child’s primary residence must remain. From my experiences, I’ve seen most commonly Harris county and the counties surrounding it (Montgomery, Ft. Bend, Waller, etc.) be utilized for a geographic restriction. In other instances, I have seen parents agree to only Montgomery County or only Harris County as their geographic restriction. Finally, I have seen some parents agree to a certain school district as the boundary lines in which their child’s primary residence must remain until further order of the court.

If an agreement between you and your spouse cannot be reached as far as a parenting plan is concerned then the court will step in and create one for you after a trial is conducted. A geographic restriction will likely be a part of any parenting plan that a judge creates for you and your family.

Modifying a prior order from a court

When your child’s primary residence has been restricted to a certain area in Texas then you or your spouse are unable to just make a spur of the moment decision to move with your child outside of the boundaries of that restricted area. Before making any move it is necessary to seek approval from the court. It would make a lot more sense to seek approval from your ex-spouse and to enter into an agreement yourselves rather than having to go before a judge. However, I understand that this is an unlikely outcome considering the nature of what you or your spouse will be asking the other permission to do.

What you will be asking the court for permission is to modify the prior order of the court. If a geographic restriction is in place then that geographic restriction will need to be lifted. Even if there is no geographic restriction you cannot just up and leave with your child. Your spouse can attempt to challenge your relocation attempt by having a restraining order granted by the judge that bars you from relocating until both sides have an opportunity to present their cases to the judge.

If a geographic restriction is in place for you and your family, you must seek the advice of an attorney to allow yourself to have that restriction lifted. It should come as no surprise to you that a court would prefer that both parents remain close to one another to help share parenting responsibilities. A court will certainly consider your request to lift the geographic restriction if you have a legitimate cause. However, preparing your case and your arguments is an essential component.

Interesting in relocating with your child post-divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

Having an experienced attorney on your side in a custody modification case can be the difference between a successful result and an effort that does not achieve your goals. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC offers the sort of experience from its attorneys that you will need in just such a case. Free of charge consultations are available by contacting our office. Our licensed family law attorneys represent clients across southeast Texas and we aim to achieve the objectives of our clients in everything we do.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Custody Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child custody, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Child Lawyersright away to protect your rights.

Our child custody lawyers in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, and surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.

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