Suppose that you divorced your spouse in 2017 and have been living in the same home ever since. And your children have attended the same elementary school and have had the same friends and routine since 2017. You have been sharing custody of the kids with your husband since that time, and everything has been going pretty smoothly. It’s very convenient having your ex-husband live close by to make transportation and logistics that much easier. You have been able to communicate about your problems with one another and work out solutions in real-time. As far as a post-divorce life is concerned, yours and the kids have been pretty smooth.
However, very few things in life remain constant for that long. If you were to want to move your family not only out of your area but out of the state of Texas, for example, you might run into issues with your ex-spouse. When you want to move to a new city, state, or even place beyond our borders, you are asking a lot of yourself and your children. Not to mention that you are putting a great deal of pressure on you and your X files to work out some modifications to your divorce court orders. There is no doubt that some modification of those orders will be necessary when you are talking about wanting to move along the distance. The Visitation you were on right now will not work when there are hundreds or thousands of miles between parents.
That is one of the difficult parts of being divorced. Not only do you have to co-parent with a spouse that you have divorced, but you have to do so while managing the challenges of following a court order that is, in some cases, many years old. While you and your child’s father can work out agreements on the fly to consider temporary changes, a significant move is more than just a temporary change. Whether the move is precipitated by you finding a new relationship or finding a new job, the topic of parental relocation after a divorce is a relevant one for us to discuss here on our blog.
In the world of Texas child custody cases, a relocation case can be tough and emotional. Not only are we talking about the potential move of your family from one place to another, but we also have to consider what impact the move will have on your post-divorce life with your ex-spouse. As much as you would like not to have to concern yourself with the opinions of your ex-spouse when it comes to moving for any reason, the reality is that when there is a child custody order in place, you will need to do so. The issues presented in a relocation case can be complex and require a great deal of thought and planning before entering into such a case.
What does relocation mean exactly in the context of a Texas child custody case?
You could probably gather that relocation means something similar to moving, but you may have questions about how this subject pertains to issues related to child custody. Moving during a divorce case is pretty rare. Most people don’t have the patience or emotional bandwidth to tolerate two life-changing events going on at the same time. Furthermore, most attorneys will counsel clients not to make big life decisions and changes during a divorce. The fact is that a divorce can be tumultuous enough for a family not to have to go through issues related to moving and all the little testicle problems that are associated with it. For that reason, many families hold off on moving decisions until after a divorce is over.
During the divorce, you may have made concessions in the case to suit your children, ex-spouse, and generally to keep the peace. There are two different kinds of people who go through divorces. The first is the kind of person who would generally do whatever was necessary to maintain some degree of sanity in their lives and peacefulness in the lives of their children. These folks tend to put the needs and want of others before themselves, and while this is an admirable quality to have, it is a potentially harmful one during a divorce.
These people tend to set aside their wants and sometimes even their common sense to maintain some degree of normalcy insanity in their lives and those of their children. As a result, some of the things that happen in a divorce and end up being put into a child custody order go against their beliefs or instincts. One of the important things that I will talk to clients about at this stage of a divorce is how critical it can be to make sure that you are satisfied with your orders and comfortable with living these orders moving forward. That is a reality that many people in your shoes do not fully think through. Not only do you have to settle a case and make it through that stage, but you also have to be able to live under these orders for an extended period.
The other person who goes through a divorce is more hard-charging and intent on doing what they believe is best for him or herself. Hard-headed is another way to describe these folks. Once a person like this has an idea in mind, it is complicated to dissuade them from that position. This can be a good thing in some cases. These folks will not get pushed into a corner when they know that they are right. On the other hand, this can also be a bad thing when a person gets an idea in their mind that is incorrect or not helpful and tends to stick with that idea until the end of the case.
If you know that you are the type of person who is difficult to reason with and can be pretty hard-headed, then you need to make that assessment at the beginning of your divorce. I’m not trying to make some moral or ethical judgment on your personality, but I am trying to tell you that this will be a factor in your divorce. With so much of your case relying upon your ability to negotiate and reach a middle ground with your spouse, you need to be aware of your personality trait and tendency towards not negotiating well and not being all that willing to look at the case from another person perspective.
If you have difficulty in negotiation settings or in avoiding conflict, then you may find that your court order is not as helpful as it may be in other circumstances where you and your spouse could have negotiated through issues regarding child custody better. You may have been charging hard on the proposition that you and your spouse should both remain in the same school district where you live right now so that the children attend schools in a certain area. I had had cases before with a parent who negotiated most strongly on schools and wanted to keep their kids in a certain school district. Many opportunities pass by to negotiate a clearer, flexible agreement that allows the parents to make changes as they see fit with time. Instead, these folks ended up with an order that tides them down to one particular school district.
While this is not necessarily a bad thing if that is what you want to do, the fact is that I can almost promise you that your circumstances will change if not in the next one or two years and certainly in the next four or five. Children grow up, children move out of the house, jobs change, people get sick, incomes go up, and incomes go down. When possible, it is best to plan for these near-certain changes that will come into your home rather than two base your entire divorce on what your life was or what you merely hope it to be. Do not go into child custody circumstances basing your positions on what you hope you like to be or what you want to see happen. Rather, based them on reasonable expectations about the present and future.
That said, one of the changes that you see more and more in the world of family law is parental relocation. During this pandemic, we have seen people become more mobile and people moving more and more. That could result from meager interest rates on mortgages, but I think it also has to do with a couple of additional factors. For one, we have seen many people move into our area and other areas of the state of Texas as well. In my opinion, this is a direct result of people leaving other places across the country due to their handling of the pandemic and stringent governmental efforts to slow or stop the spread of the virus. When those efforts impact people’s pocketbooks and ability to earn an income, they will naturally drift towards places where there is more Liberty in that regard.
The other factor that I think plays into an increased number of relocation attempts is that your work may be more mobile than ever before. At the same time, I think that eventually, things will return to normal as far as people working in office environments; for now, it seems like many people work from home and do not have a designated place where they need to be complete their job function. As a result, being close to a city center or even a Metropolitan area is less necessary now than it was even five or ten years ago. As a result, We have seen relocation become more prevalent since the beginning of the pandemic.
None of this is to mention simply moving within the same area to purchase a home that suits your family better. If you live in a suburban area of Houston, you have undoubtedly seen new neighbors pop up with houses that have features and a look to them that are very appealing. Many of our neighbors are choosing to move, and you may be as well to put yourself in a home now rather than wait when interest rates and housing prices are even higher.
How can you obtain a modification on your child custody order?
If you want to move then, you will likely need to obtain a modification of your child custody order. Issues like conservatorships, Visitation, possession, and access are just a few topics that any significant move will impact. I am not talking about a move from Katy to Tomball or something like that. I’m thinking of more significant moves where your current Visitation structure may not work with your ex-spouse if you do move. On top of that, logistical expenses such as plane tickets or gas money may also have to be built into a modification to compensate your ex-spouse for having to go through more effort to see your children.
The simplest way to get the modification you desire is to address the issue with your ex-spouse and see if they will agree to the modification you suggest. Not only should you be thinking about the issues that I’ve already discussed regarding a child custody order, but you may need to consider whether or not child support needs to be modified either up or down to consider the changes in your children’s lives due to the relocation. It would require you and your ex-spouse to be on good terms to put yourself in a position to negotiate through this issue. On top of that, you would likely want to have an attorney by your side to help you take the agreements with your ex-spouse and put them into an enforceable court order.
On the other hand, if you want to relocate your children to a new place and your ex-spouse does not agree to the modifications you desire, you will have a contested modification case on your hands. This is not to be unexpected. A modification for relocation is one of the more significant changes you can ask to have made, and I would not expect you’re exposed to be incredibly excited at the idea of not seeing their children as much due to the relocation. Hiring an experienced family law attorney for a case like this is an absolute must.
Relocation cases are difficult because there is little middle ground when it comes to relocating. What I mean by this is that if you want to move 500 miles to take a new job, it isn’t as if you would be satisfied with moving 250 miles and simply driving more either way. Rather, a relocation will either need to happen or not happen. In many other areas of family law, there are plenty of opportunities to meet in the middle on an issue. However, if you want to move to San Antonio for a new job, it wouldn’t do much good for you and your spouse to meet in the middle of Ann to move to Schulenburg and away from Houston. The “all in or all out” nature of relocation cases makes them especially difficult.
If your modification case were to make it to a trial, a judge would consider what is in the best interest of your children. This is the standard that is applied to any issues regarding your kids, and a judge would determine whether or not relocating is in your children’s best interest. You should note that you are getting a job with more income, and better benefits do not necessarily equate to what is in the kids’ best interest. Additionally, it isn’t easy to convince the family court judge that taking your children away extended basis from their other parent is also in your best interest.
Most of the time, you are better off attempting to modify your child custody orders directly with your ex-spouse. Judges 10 to be cautious when it comes to significantly modify a child custody order, especially one that has been working relatively well for you and your family. As a result, we should not look at this modification as anything close to a sure thing, especially if you have to go to court. Sometimes the most important factor in the case is how experienced is your attorney is willing; are you to become flexible and creative with the request you are making.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about your family’s circumstances and the world of Texas family law. Our attorneys and staff are privileged to serve our community and look forward to the opportunity to be able to do so for your family, as well.