When parties enter into either a divorce, child custody proceeding, or modification of a prior court order, the Court, which has jurisdiction over the case, will weigh whether or not to place a geographic restriction on the children's residence.
What does a Typical Geographic Restriction Look Like?
A restriction will typically bind the children’s primary residence to one county and either the counties contiguous to their home county or places within a certain distance from their home city.
Of course, the parties can come to their agreement without the Court being involved, and they can choose whether or not to place a geographic restriction upon themselves.
For those situations that require the Court to become involved, all required for a restriction to be set up is for one party to request it.
Why are Geographic Restrictions Ordered?
The reason is that the Court wants to encourage the parties to live close to one another to facilitate the parents' opportunity to “co-parent” with one another and lessen the transportation burden on both parties.
When two parents get divorced, or when non-married people cease to live in the same house, the child cannot live primarily with both parents. The parent with whom the child primarily resides (the custodial parent) and the parent who has visitation with the child (non-custodial parent) will share the child’s time between their residences.
Texas Standard Possession Order
In a Texas Standard Possession Order, this will mean alternating most weekends, the custodial parent ceding a month’s worth of visitation time to the non-custodial parent during the summer, and alternating Christmas and Thanksgiving.
These parameters change if the parties reside more than 100 miles from one another, which can be the case if no geographic restriction is in place. A non-custodial parent would get additional time in the summer (45 days of visitation) and would be able to get every Spring Break instead of every other Spring Break.
The flip side is that due to the inherent difficulties in traveling long distances over the course of a short amount of time, non-custodial parents typically will be awarded one weekend of visitation with the child per month.
What if I Do Not Want a Geographic Restriction?
If a party does not want a geographic restriction or wants to eliminate a geographic restriction via a modification of prior court orders, the burden is on that person to show that the geographic restriction is not in the best interest of the child.
This is a difficult burden to meet. A geographic restriction is intended to help the non-custodial parent have the best opportunity to spend time with and develop their relationship with the children.
To argue that lifting the restriction would not have a tangibly negative effect on the other parent’s relationship is a difficult task. Another reason for the restriction being in place is to limit the custodial parent’s ability to pick up and move at a moment’s notice without the consent of the other parent.
Courts want to allow the non-custodial parent every opportunity to have the same loving and caring relationship with the child that the custodial parent does. The geographic restriction keeps the child close enough to the non-custodial parent to allow for the aforementioned relationship to flourish.
When a party files either a divorce action or a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship, the Court will restrict the children's residence to the county. The lawsuit was filed, at least for the duration of the case.
Lifting the Geographic Restriction
By the end of a case, the Court will typically ensure that a geographic restriction continues unless the parties come to a prior agreement on the subject or if the restriction is not in the child's best interest.
Once a restriction is put in place, it is challenging to get it overturned in a modification. A Court must undertake a series of analyses to overturn a prior geographic restriction, including taking a look at the reasons for or against the move, a comparison of the life of the child overall now and at the proposed new residence, and a demonstration of how the proposed new primary residence would not affect the non-custodial parent adversely.
Especially if the non-custodial parent lacks the resources to move closer to the children’s new proposed residence, a Court would most likely deny any attempt to modify the prior order by lifting the geographic restriction.
All in all, a geographic restriction will, in most situations, do a lot to benefit the non-custodial parent by limiting where the children can move. For every parent concerned about heading into a divorce or child custody case, they will lose a lot of time with their child. The geographic restriction concept should allow them some peace of mind.
With that said, it is for the best if that non-custodial parent takes advantage of their time with the child by being present for every visitation period that is afforded to them.
If the custodial parent were to attempt to have the geographic restriction lifted, they would have to overcome the fact that the other parent takes advantage of their visitation time due in no small part to the proximity between themselves and their child. If the non-custodial parent fails to take advantage of the time awarded to them in a divorce or child custody case, all bets are off, and they may lose in a trial to have the geographic restriction overturned.
When considering your options heading into a contested child custody case where a geographic restriction or any other subject is at issue, dependable and experienced representation is critical. The Houston divorce attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, offer this advocacy type for clients across southeast Texas. If you or someone you know have questions regarding family law, please contact our office today for a free charge consultation.
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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 custody lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our child custody lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact 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 child custody cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.