What if You Don’t have a Custody Order and You Move?

Finding yourself in a situation where you have a reason to relocate from Southeast Texas to another part of the country or even the world can certainly be an exciting proposition to consider. Many times, the move is brought about by promotion or even a new job with a different company. It can be exhilarating to feel wanted in your professional life and can make a decision that isn’t in the best interest of your family. However, you also need to consider that a move like this will not only affect you but also your family.

When it comes to relocating your first concern will probably lie with your children. This is especially true if you have young children. In a circumstance when you and your children live in the same household it can be an incredibly important consideration for the two of you to be able to be together for the long haul. You may even have people in your life who are cautioning you against the move if it negatively impacts your ability to maintain a relationship with your children period of course, in your mind, the move would only be done if you can have your cake and eat it too. Namely, you could be able to maintain a strong relationship with your children and excel professionally.

However, it is a difficult circumstance to find yourself in a position where you can excel professionally and have there been no negative repercussions on your family life. Much of the time a new promotion means more work or at least taking on responsibilities that can detract from family life. That doesn’t mean that every new work opportunity means that your family life will suffer but that you should be aware of these potential limitations.

What can you do when you are offered a promotion or have any other reason to relocate to a new area of the country? How can you balance the new opportunity with your desire to be apparent to your children? What happens if you share custody and possession of your children with a Co-parent? How will your relationship with that Co-parent and any experiences that the two of you have had in family court factor into this type of situation? That is what I would like to discuss with you today in this blog post.

Namely, how can you handle a situation involving relocation if you have never been to a family court before? This can be a precarious position to find yourself in. Even in the best of times trusting a Co-parent to honor their word when it comes to issues regarding your children is an exercise in learning how to trust a person that you may not be on the best of terms with. To begin today’s blog post from the law office of Brian Fagan, I would like to share with you my thoughts on sharing custody and conservatorships with children in a situation where you and your Co-parent do not have any court order in place. There are some important considerations for you to make regarding the subject that I feel merit some discussion period from there, we will go into specifically how to manage a situation where you are considering a relocation despite not having formal court orders in place.

What does it mean not to have custody orders with a Co-parent?

Custody orders is a general term used to refer to court orders from a Texas family law court that relate to your minor children. These court orders relate to topics like conservatorships, visitation, possession, access, and child support. While many parents in your position consider mostly the issues regarding visitation and possession of children there are a whole host of topics related to child custody that are contained in custody orders. The term custody isn’t even used in the Texas family code. Rather, custody is a casual term that the public, attorneys, and judges use to discuss subjects related to children, in general.

Child custody orders candy created because of a divorce case or a child custody case involving parents who were never married but did have a child together. Child custody orders are those that are either agreed upon in mediation between you and your Co-parent or handed down family court judge as the president of a trial. The key element to any set of court orders is that the custody orders must have a judge’s signature on them. Anything else is not truly a court order and is not enforceable by a Texas family law court.

The main benefit of having a court order that is signed off on by a judge is that both you and your Co-parent can request that a family court judge enforce the terms of the order if either party violates any provision contained in the document. For example, in the future, if your Co-parent denies you possession or visitation with your child then you could file an enforcement case against your Co-parent notifying the court of the specific instance where you were denied possession. Assuming that you can prove that the denial of your possession occurred you could ask the court for relief including make-up visitation time. The idea that new and you’re Co-parent can hold one another accountable for actions like this is a key deterrent to engaging in bad behavior and harming the relationship between your Co-parent and your child.

When you do not have a child custody order leave the family court then none of these privileges or remedies under the law will be made available to you. You and your Co-parent would likely be operating under the honor system with one another where the two of you would be working together to create a makeshift custody order informally with one another. For example, the two of you may have a basic understanding that you should have possession of the children every other weekend and half of any holidays during the year. However, if you violate that handshake agreement or if your Co-parent does the same then neither of you would have a remedy to go to court and enforce the terms of your informal court order. Rather, both of you would be out of luck in that regard, and theoretically, either of you could violate the terms of that agreement with no potential liability under the law.

There are several reasons why you and your Co-parent may have chosen not to follow through with any formalized court order. For example, the two of you may have always had a good relationship where you have been able to work together on issues related to your children. While the two of you may not have agreed on every subject under the sun when it comes to your children, you have likely been able to let bygones be bygones and look toward the best interests of your children when making decisions. As a result, you’ve never had an issue with having to work together when it comes to your kids.

The problem with an arrangement like this is that relationships, with time, tend to change. All it takes is 1 minor disagreement between you and your Co-parent to find that your handshake agreement no longer is suitable for you and your family. In that case, the situation that you find yourself in may be tenuous at best. Your handshake agreement may go up in smoke the second one of you decides that the other one is not being fair there is otherwise being disagreeable for any reason. When you have a formal court order concerns like this are not relevant. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re Co-parent is being unreasonable or otherwise disagreeable. Rather, all that matters is that the two of you R working together in honoring your agreement.

If this sounds remotely like the situation that you and your co-parent are going through, then you should not feel like you are the only ones. Having an informal custody situation with your Co-parent is the norm for many families. In that case, you should consider any risk that you are taking to the well-being of your children and your relationship with your child. This is a type of situation that works while it is working and then when it ceases to work it can become a significant problem for you and your family. Whether you know it or not, this type of situation can impact your life in significant ways beyond immediate concerns over child support and time with your kids.

So, what can you do in a situation where you are desiring relocation for any reason but do not yet have a custody order from a Texas family court? Can you go ahead and make the move? What are some of the concerns that you should consider before scheduling the movers? In what ways can your relationship with your children be affected by relocation when there is not a child custody order in place. That is what I would like to discuss with you today in this blog post so that you can potentially avoid any situation where you are in a position where mistakes are made and your relationship with your child may be harmed significantly.

Relocating without a child custody order

The presumption in Texas is that parents make decisions on behalf of their children with the best interests of the child in mind. If your children live with you primarily then this is something that is to your advantage. However, if your children do not live with you primarily and instead reside with a Co-parent on a primary basis this can be potentially harmful to you in some ways. Let’s walk through the circumstances that you may find yourself in depending upon whether you are the primary conservator of your children or whether you are the possessory conservator.

The primary conservator of children has the right to designate the primary residence of a child. However, since you have never been to a family court before this will not be an official designation that you have period however, we will refer to you as an informal primary conservator. The primary conservator has the children live with him or her on a primary basis during the year. Your Co-parent may have possession from time to time based on your informal agreement but for the most part, you are the parent who makes decisions for your children regarding education and healthcare and houses the children primarily. In that sense, you are in a better position than your Co-parent would be regarding a relocation. For instance, if you decided that you wanted to accept a promotion within your company and that promotion required a relocation then you could do so with minimal issue.

Why is this? There is nothing inherently wrong with moving your family to take a new job. People make this kind of move with great frequency and Texans are surely familiar with this process. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, surely all of us have had a couple of new neighbors or people come into our lives from out of state. Texas has seen tremendous growth in population in the past few years due in no small Part 2 the availability of jobs in this state. There is nothing inherently wrong with taking a position in a different state in moving your family to do so.

This is true also when there is no court order in place. The fact of the matter is that without a court order in place there is nothing and no one to tell you that a move cannot occur. The presumption that you were acting in your child’s best interest by moving would still hold and there is no law or other restriction in place when it comes to deciding to move. Rather, when you decide to move you do not even have to answer to your Co-parent due to there not being a court order in place. The two of you have been operating on a handshake agreement. However, that handshake agreement is subject to change and has no legal significance one way or the other period

The cash value of this entire discussion is that if you choose to move with your children and there is no court order in place then your Co-parent cannot stop you necessarily. In that type of situation, you and your Co-parent would either need to change your handshake agreement or continue to try to make your current custody agreement work. However, that may prove to be unwieldy in a situation where you have moved across the country. This is where you and your Co-parent will need to continue to work together to come up with an informal child custody order that works for the two of you or a different course may need to be taken. As it stands with no court order, however, unless your Co-parent were to seek judicial intervention there will be no problem with you taking a job that required you to relocate.

However, if you are the parent with whom your child does not reside primarily then you have options in front of you if your Co-parent seeks to move with your children and relocate to another city, state, or even country. You are in a bad situation when you have no court order and are operating under a handshake agreement with your Co-parent. As you were finding out now, circumstances can change regarding custody and the agreement that you had with your Co-parent. As such, you may now find yourself in a position where you need court assistance to keep your children close to you. The alternative would be having to up and move to follow your Co-parent around as often as he or she moves.

Before your Co-parent moves the recommendation would be to have you consult with an experienced family law attorney to discuss how you may be able to keep your children in Texas for as long as it takes in ago, she ate or heavy judge issue child custody orders. A geographic restriction that limits where children can live in the Houston metropolitan area is a great place for you to begin discussions with your Co-parent. However, choosing to do nothing and simply let your handshake agreement continue could turn out to be a major mistake both for you and for your children.

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 how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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