What factors to consider if relocation is an issue in your divorce

Making a move is not easy. It takes planning and time. Unfortunately, time is one of those resources that are in short supply during a divorce. Time spent preparing for a hearing with your attorney. Time spent responding to discovery requests from your spouse. Using as much free time as can spend with your kids. Having to work moreover. Your life is going to get busier during a divorce whether you like it or not. The free time that you used to have will be spent on other things when you are going through a divorce in Texas.

Most people who find themselves in this situation do not have much of an opportunity to consider anything beyond their work, their children, and their divorce. Sort of like how when you are running a marathon your body stops blood flow to non-essential areas so that all the blood in your body can rush to your muscles to help you run, this is what happens in a divorce, as well. Your time crunch means that you will sacrifice other interests in favor of being as prepared as possible you can for your divorce. Just about everything that does not involve your children will fall by the wayside.

When you are trying to move during a divorce it can cause a great amount of disruption to your case. As we have been discussing so far in today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan it is challenging enough as it is to go through a divorce. To need to go through a divorce and plan a move is only adding fuel to the fire. You may be able to get your arms around all of it but many people will not be able to. There’s only one way to try and move during a divorce- by planning and being prepared as best as possible for all the events that could occur during a move and a divorce.

Moving with a child during the divorce

There are additional issues to consider when it comes to relocation during a divorce if you have children. For one, the standing orders or temporary orders in your court probably prohibit you from moving with your child while the divorce is ongoing. This is done for several reasons. For one, the court wants there to be some degree of stability and consistency in the life of your child during the divorce. Second, moving with your child during the divorce could limit the amount of time that your spouse will be able to spend with your child. Since you all are going to be doing a trial run on a possession schedule during this divorce moving will complicate that goal considerably.

You should look through your court orders and determine whether you can move during a divorce. If somehow there are no prohibitions against your moving, you should be extremely intentional about where you move. Money is going to be a factor in this consideration. With budgets tight during a divorce you should consider moving to a place that will not overexert your budget and will allow you to accomplish whatever goals you have for yourself when it comes to moving.

Custody orders and visitation are determined in large part based on what the parents can make work in their specific situation. The distance between your home and that of your spouse will play a big part in determining where and when visitation can take place. It is easier for logistical purposes for you all to live close to one another. That is why many parents who move out of the family home rent an apartment or home close to their child’s primary residence to make the pick-up/drop-off easier and to increase the likelihood of there being an opportunity for 50/50 visitation in the future. Having to drive an hour each way with the kids cuts down on quality time together and increases the likelihood that there will need to be more creative visitation arrangements created.

In court orders, temporary or final, the dividing line is 100 miles as far as the type of visitation that a non-primary conservator can have with the kids. If you are going to be the parent with visitation rights, then you need to live within 100 miles of your children to have every other weekend possession presumed to be the standard. If you live more than 100 miles from your children, then you run into an issue where there will not be a presumption that every other weekend visitation is possible. In that case, you may be limited to weekend visitation once or twice a month with no meal on Thursdays from 6-8 p.m. You need to make sure that this arrangement is necessary beyond belief or you will suffer from not being able to get access to your children as often as you otherwise would have been able to,

Whatever you get established during the divorce is likely to end up being what you establish as far as visitation is concerned after the divorce. I know temporary orders are only temporary but unless there are major problems that parents and children experience under temporary orders that is what they will likely use for final orders as well. If this is not something that you can agree to and need to go to a trial, know that judges are not usually excited to break the status quo. Be sure that what you do during the divorce and agree to in temporary orders are something that you are comfortable keeping for final orders post-divorce. You will not always be able to shake loose from those orders no matter how badly you may want to.

You can also consider the needs of your children when it comes to deciding whether to move during the divorce. Many times, people will get the idea that this is the best time to move since it is a period of transition, anyways. I would caution you on this, however. Bear in mind that there are houses on sale and for rent on basically any street in the city every day of the year. If you think there is a deal today on a house, then there is likely to be a similar or even better deal on a different house in three months that you like even better. Between the difficulties with moving to uproot the kids now may not be the best time for a move. However, you are an adult and need to make decisions for your family that is in line with your goals and the needs of your family.

Another issue that you may want to consider is if there are any other alternatives to moving that your family may be able to take advantage of. There are usually multiple ways to accomplish what you need to when it comes to living situations. It may be that upon further reflection you realize that moving isn’t really what you want to do in the first place. A more in-depth look at the financial parts of a move could show that you do not have as strong of a set-up as you would like to move. Sometimes, that’s ok. It allows you to spend more time focusing on your family and their needs. Your desire to move may be rooted in a desire to just keep moving rather than truly assess the situation that you find yourself in.

Moving with children after a divorce

Most of the time, a move will occur after a divorce rather than during the divorce. Frankly, moving is a pain in the rear end and a divorce only makes that process worse. Most people simply would not want to consider a major move during a divorce. If you are choosing to leave the family home and will be renting nearby your former residence, then that is not the sort of move that I am envisioning here. Rather, what I have in mind is a major move across a big metropolitan area like Houston or a move some distance away from your prior home if you live in a more rural location.

Again, moving with children after a divorce is more common but not without its potential difficulties that need to be sorted out. Your primary thoughts need to be centered around the reality that once you become involved in a family law case you are not fully able to make decisions for yourself and your children without regard for other people. The first person that you will need to consider is your co-parent. He or she has conservatorship rights and visitation orders that are protected under the court order. The second person that you need to consider when moving after a divorce with children is the family court judge who can potentially hold you accountable for your actions.

Moving with your children after divorce means that if the children will be coming with you, then you must be their primary conservator. This means that you can determine the primary residence of the kids. A move with the kids would need to be in their best interests. You can bet that your co-parent is not going to allow you just to up and move without attempting to keep you here in southeast Texas. However, if you plan on moving with the kids you should review your court orders to determine if anything is holding you back from the move as far as those orders are concerned.

First, you can look to the court orders to determine whether there is a geographic restriction in place that lays out a certain area that you and the children may live in. A geographic restriction does exactly what you think it would. It restricts the area where your children can reside. Many times, parents will agree to this type of arrangement. The geographic restriction can be a fairly wide area, or it can be very small. Harris County and any county contiguous to Harris is a common geographic restriction. However, many families will agree to a single county or even a certain area within the county. We worked on a case recently where both parents wanted the geographic restriction to be within Katy ISD. It is up to you all what the specific geographic restriction will be or whether to use one at all.

The catch is that you will then need to follow that geographic restriction whatever the consequences may be. The truth is that the geographic restriction exists to benefit the parent with whom the children do not reside primarily. That parent could be put in a position where he or she was made to follow you and the kids around the country every time you decided to pick up and move without geographic traction in place. The geographic restriction is intended to help that parent maintain a relationship with the kids and vice versa. We know that many parents fear the outcome of a family law case in part due to the uncertainty surrounding visitation and possession. This way there is some greater certainty when it comes to how much time each parent will be able to spend with the kids after the divorce.

If you are going to be the primary conservator of your children as a result of the divorce, then you need to consider what your life is going to look like after the case is over. If you believe that you are going to need to move with the kids at some point soon that would be a relevant issue to share with your attorney. It may be that would need to talk with your spouse about this during the divorce to see if there is a better custody arrangement than a standard possession order. There may also be a limitation when it comes to an issue like child support where a different amount of support other than a “guidelines” level of child support.

Choosing not to include a geographic restriction is one option that you would have if you wanted to be able to move at some point soon after your divorce is over. This may require that you go to trial, however. Many non-primary parents would not be willing to leave out a geographic restriction especially if it appears that you will be moving. You may end up walking into a situation where your spouse is named as the primary conservator, and you are the non-primary conservator. This is a risk of going to court on an issue like this.

Next, if it is your co-parent that you believe is going to be moving after or even during the divorce you should be realistic with your expectations on what types of visitation are going to be available given these limitations. The reality is that the further you and your co-parent live from one another the more difficult it will be for you all to make visitation work well. Flat tires, illness, school trips, etc. all happen from time to time. Sometimes these things come up without warning. If you and your co-parent lived around the corner from one another, you could probably make these visitation sessions work despite the unforeseen events.

However, when you live a significant distance from one another your schedules will not be as forgiving. Seeing your child for a weekend becomes extremely important when you only have one or two weekends per month to make those visitations work well. If you are a non-primary parent and must miss a weekend that can be a major issue. On the other hand, if you are the primary conservator then you would need to be able to prepare your children for traveling a long distance, possibly doing some of the traveling yourself either flying with them or driving them midway between your home and that of your co-parent. This is not an easy situation to find yourselves in logistically. This can lead to short tempers and people running short of patience at the very least.

When moving or relocation becomes an issue in your divorce you need an attorney who can help you arrive at equitable solutions. Usually, these are problems that involve children, as well. Being able to maximize your relationship with the kids while not sacrificing their best interests can be a challenge. With that said the attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are ready and able to assist you in whatever divorce circumstance you and your family are currently facing.

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