Finally getting to the point in your career where you were able to gain promotion into management or a key decision-making role can be a great achievement for you both professionally and personally. The moment that you were told about the promotion is one of those times in your life that you will always remember. It is such an affirming feeling to be told that you are valued and that you matter to the place where you work. All your hard work and sacrifice are starting to pay dividends. Congratulations.
Once you found out about the promotion the next item to check off your list is to determine what that means for you on a personal level. There was some question about whether the promotion would mean a move would be necessary. Relocating was something that appealed to you a great deal as a younger person. Changing scenery and being engaged in a new community seemed fun and exciting. It was always a dream of yours to discover a new place and new people. This promotion was exactly what you were looking for.
In the intervening years between discovering this dream of yours and landing the promotion, however, you settled down, got married, and had a baby. Your home is in Houston, but you still aspired about a move that coincided with the new location for your work. Promotion means that you have a decision to make- take the job and move or stay in your current role and remain in Houston. That you went through a divorce recently only complicates matters more so.
Where you are relocating matters
If your relocation was to a city that neighbors Houston, then the decision to Move probably would not be as significant. Living in Houston and then traveling to The Woodlands or Galveston for work is something that thousands of Houstonians and southeast Texans do every single day. That kind of commute is manageable all things being equal. As a result, you probably would not have given it a second thought when it comes to taking on a new role at your company. You have been waiting so long to be promoted and now that the promotion has come you would like to do everything possible to take advantage of the opportunity provided to you.
However, this new role that you would be taking on would require a move across the country. This means a change to your routine and a requirement that you assess the circumstances regarding your professional life as well as your personal life. Being in a position where you need to make decisions about whether to uproot yourself from Houston to a brand-new place takes a great deal of thought and consideration. The amount of thought needed to go into this decision can be felt even more acutely given your recent divorce. One of the most important factors regarding the move would be the potential change to the visitation and possession that you have with your children.
This is where your mind starts to race. What are you going to do about your possession and visitation schedule with your kids? Certainly, every other weekend visitation and a weekly dinner on Thursday would not work if you were living in Chicago in your kids still lived in Houston. Everything about your personal life will be turned on its head if you chose to take this promotion. What seemed, at one time, to be an exciting and rewarding move and change may ultimately turn out to be a disaster for you if you cannot make the move work considering your home life and prospects with your family. This is something that you need to figure out and it needs to be figured out fast. There is a deadline at your work as far as how long you can take to decide.
Talking with your Co-parent about the move
The first place you need to look in terms of guidance on a potential move would be your Co-parent. Even if you and your Co-parent are not on the best of terms or otherwise work well together as a unit the ability to Co-parent your child is incredibly important after a divorce. Additionally, that importance becomes even more crucial given that you would potentially be planning to help raise your child from across the country. If you didn't think coordinating your efforts as a parent was important before the move it certainly would be now that you are considering a major change to your living and parenting arrangements.
We can approach this topic as if you were the primary conservator of your children. The primary conservator of children is the parent who the children live with primarily during the school year and who also has primary decision-making authority. However, the issue of relocation can also be relevant to your family even if you are the non-primary conservator of your children and have only visitation rights. Either way, the possession and access schedules created by your final decree of divorce will likely need to be modified or changed to some extent if you are considering a move.
No matter how you slice it, if you are going to decide to move out outside of Texas then you need to be prepared for changes to your lifestyle. Undoubtedly, it is easier to drive across the neighborhood to pick up your children than it is to get on an airplane and fly across the country. While travel may be exciting and novel at first, it almost certainly will get tiresome for both you and your children at a certain point. While this may not be what you want to hear it is the reality that your family will be facing. The decision to uproot your life for a job can have lasting impacts on your family both now and in the distant future.
The real question on your mind, especially if your children live with you full time, would be how your Co-parent feels about you taking the children with you. In most cases, you would expect your Co-parent to not be OK with this. Not only would the travel, and costs associated with the move impact your children, but they would surely impact you, as well. Not only that, but you would also necessarily be asking your Co-parent to see your children less to help you facilitate a move. The likelihood of him or her being on board with this is slim to none. As such, there will likely need to be some reconsideration or negotiation associated with your potential move.
Before you even decide to talk to your Co-parent about the potential move, you ought to look at your final decree of divorce. For most people, it is unlikely that your final decree of divorce touches on subject matter related to relocating a great distance from your children. There may be a geographic restriction in place that mandates your children to live in a certain well-defined geographic region. In that case, the children may have to live within the city limits of Houston, Harris County, or one of the contiguous counties surrounding Harris.
This is important for you to understand especially if you are the primary conservator of your children. In that case, you would be violating the terms of the geographic restriction if you chose to move to Chicago or anywhere outside of the geographic region. There is likely not an exception in your order that allows for you to move for a great work opportunity. Rather, the whole point of a geographic restriction is to keep your children in one area to allow for both you and your Co-parent to maintain a strong relationship with them. Moving outside of that area would be in direct violation of the final decree of divorce and could result in some stiff penalties for you.
On the other hand, if you are the non-primary conservator of your children then you may be in a position where the geographic restriction puts you in a bind as well. If you are trying to move outside of a geographically defined area, then you need to remember that the geographic restriction is put into place primarily to benefit you and your children. Otherwise, you would be put in a situation where your Co-parent could decide to up and move whenever and wherever he or she pleased, and you will be left with the prospect of having to follow him or her quite frequently. Therefore, the geographic restriction seeks to allow for some consistency in terms of the parenting and family time that you get with your child.
Look at your final decree of divorce and determine whether there is any language included regarding relocation or even a geographic restriction. Your ability to move and the potential penalties associated with doing so in violation of your court order will all be contained in your final decree of divorce. It is worth having this information in your back pocket before you speak to your Co-parent about the potential move. At the very least, it will show your Co-parent that you have given the subject some thought and that you are not entering into conversation with him or her without first having considered the issues at hand.
What do your custody orders say?
It is likely that after having spoken to your Co-parent, you did not get the response that you necessarily desired. As I mentioned a moment ago, it is very unlikely for your Co-parent to agree with your decision to move and even more unlikely that your Co-parent would be excited at the prospect of your children moving along with you. All in all, go into your Co-parent first and displayed a good faith effort to work with him or her on the problems if you find yourself considering the relocation. You do not necessarily do so to work out an agreement or get their blessing.
Now that your Co-parent is aware of your desire to move, and the clock is still ticking on your need to decide one way or another about moving you should still refer back to your final decree of divorce. This document will give you marching orders in terms of what is expected of you and your Co-parent when it comes to visitation and possession of your children. You can gain a solid understanding of these expectations by regularly reading through the custody orders that you have in place. The specific agreement for your family will in large part what the future may hold as far as custody and relocation are concerned.
Even under a standard possession order, you and your Co-parent likely share possession of your children on an even basis. This is great because the children have been able to form a bond with both of you despite the difficult circumstances surrounding your divorce. Your kids attend the local elementary school that is close to both you and your Co parents’ neighborhood. You and your Co-parent may not agree on everything under the sun but at the very least the two of you can share responsibilities associated with Activities associated with their extracurricular life and school.
Determining the first steps before a relocation
This is where things begin to get dicey for you. If you decide to go ahead and hire an attorney to modify your custody orders, then you are going to attempt to do so from a distance. This is assuming that you go ahead and move with the children against the wishes of your Co-parent and then try and have a local attorney work out the modification on your behalf. While this type of arrangement does occur from time to time it is certainly better for you to be able to be local to your case to Represent yourself to the fullest. The alternative would be to relocate before filing the modification and to instead leave your children with your Co-parent or another family member in Texas. This is probably not a realistic option for your family, and I cannot see you want to do this necessarily.
What you need to understand is that your Co-parent is not without options when it comes to restricting your ability to leave with the children. Your Co-parent would likely file a motion to enforce the terms of your final decree of divorce regarding any geographic restriction. Note that even if no geographic restriction is in place your Co-parent is still entitled to their visitation on certain days of the month. Given a move across the country, it is unlikely that you could facilitate the visitation as contained in your final decree of divorce.
The motion to enforce could include our request for an emergency hearing to be held where you would need to present your side of the story. Removing your children from Texas and moving with them across the country will be tantamount to saying that you are going to be violating your final decree of divorce at least regarding possession and visitation. No matter how willing your children are to travel or how much you are willing to pay to make the visitation happen even the best-laid plans can go astray.
Without a doubt, it is a really bad decision for you to move across the country without first looking at the issue of custody with your Co-parent. Even if your Co-parent were OK with your decision to do this initially, I am confident that most parents would not be as willing to go along with the plan the longer you had to deal with travel, logistics, and other considerations. Getting into this situation without a firm plan on how to handle yourself and your situation is a mistake. Instead, you should thoughtfully consider contacting an experienced family law attorney to go over your options and learn more about information that may be relevant to your case.
You are like a trapeze artist who is operating without a net beneath you if you move without amending an order formally through the court or even try to amend the order informally with your co-parent. Doing so requires a degree of trust in your co-parent that is difficult to come by. Everything that you have worked for both with your children and with your work- could be thrown into disarray if you make the wrong decision about this relocation.
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 consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your specific circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.