The bottom line for you as a parent to be aware of as you explore the world of Texas family law is that if you go to court and receive a court order, the odds are good that the order will mandate that you tell your child’s other parent where you live. Many times you will also need to tell him or her where you are working, but let’s just focus on the residence part of that equation for now.
This is mandated for a couple of reasons. First, there is a decent probability that you will need to be able to find your child’s other parent in the event of an emergency. If you need to leave the state immediately because you have a sick relative you may need to rush your child over to your ex=spouse’s home at a moment’s notice. Or, your child could call you frantically from their father’s house to tell you that their dad fell down and really hurt himself. You would need to call 9-1-1 and give the operator the address to send an ambulance to. While you may hesitate to comply, it is important that you work with your child’s other parent on this.
Your court order will also spell out the parameters of your visitation arrangements for your child. All of this is important in the event that through whatever circumstances are relevant, you do not know where your child currently is. Your child’s other parent may move with him frequently across your city or town. Your child may even be living with relatives because their other parent is in jail or otherwise out of the picture for the time being. If you are not being communicated with and updated on their whereabouts that is not a desirable situation to be in.
You should review your most recent court order to see if there is any information that can clue you in on where your child is living. If you don’t have a copy of the order then you should contact the clerk of the court for your county and request a copy. If all else fails, you need to hire an attorney. When the other parent hides your child or fails to adequately update you about moving then he or she has violated your order. The thing is, the only way for you to hold him or her accountable is to file an enforcement lawsuit that seeks to enforce the terms of the prior order.
Many times, by hiring an attorney and filing an enforcement lawsuit you can get accomplished what you need to have done without even going to court. The reason for this is that you have to provide notice to your child’s other parent of the pending lawsuit. If you do so, the other parent may take the position that it is not worth the effort to proceed with a lawsuit and he or she will simply comply and tell you where your child is.
For safety reasons, your case may be one where the court has determined that is not in your child’s best interests to have their location disclosed. If your ex-spouse has committed acts of violence against you or your child then for safety reasons there may be no requirement that either one of you update each other on changes to your home address.
What happens if you move? Do your court orders have to change?
You may or may not be able to move wherever you would like based on your court orders. Go back and read the orders to make sure. If you can’t understand that you’re reading or are not sure you can come into our office and ask one of our attorneys about what the order says. We will give you an answer at no cost and will talk to you about your options moving forward.
For example, if you are a parent who has visitation rights to your child you probably also have the right to possession of your child on the first, third and fifth weekends of each month. That is a typical breakdown for parents who live within one hundred miles of another. However, what would happen if you were to receive a job offer that would put you more than 100 miles away from your child? What would happen then? Could you even consider taking that job?
You could consider taking the job but it would be at the expense of seeing your child on the first, third and fifth weekends of each month. It would probably mean taking the standard possession order for a parent who lived more than 100 miles from their child. This is typically one weekend per month. Some parents are able to make the long commute work so that the more frequent visitation sessions occur, but most are not.
The other thing to keep in mind is that your child's other parent has options in their court if you choose to move this distance. First, he or she can take you back to court in order to modify your prior court order. If it is argued that there has been a substantial change in circumstances, a judge may be willing to modify the court orders to allow for less visitation for your child and you. The justification would be that it is not in the best interests of your child to allow you to have the same degree of visitation as before if you cannot be counted on to take advantage of the time due to the longer distance you are responsible for travel.
The other thing to keep in mind is that if you have a geographic restriction as part of your court orders then you are potentially opening yourself to a whole lot of trouble if you take a job that is outside of the area defined in your court orders as a place where you are able to reside. Let me be a little more clear about that with you.
A geographic restriction forces your child’s primary caregiver to reside within a certain geographic area. For most parents in Texas, that geographic area is the county in which your case is situated as well as any county that borders that county. So, for Harris County residents a typical geographic restriction would be Harris, Ft. Bend, Waller, Chambers, Liberty and Montgomery Counties.
Your child’s primary caregiver is forced to live in one of these counties in order so that you as the non-primary parent do not have to chase him or her all over the state, country or globe just so you can see your child. The geographic restriction exists to benefit you as the non-primary parent in an effort to allow you to see your child as often as possible.
However, if you choose to move outside of that geographic area then your ex-spouse may do the same. Thus, you are opening yourself up to a situation where if you move a couple of counties over, your ex-spouse may choose to do the same thing- in the opposite direction. Or, she may take a job across the country or may want to return home to a far-flung state to be closer to family. Whereas the geographic restriction prevented her from doing so before, she now has that ability to move since you already broke the restriction by moving.
The last thing I will mention is that it can be very difficult to have a geographic restriction lifted. Parents will want to file a modification case seeking to lift the geographic restriction from their order but will need to be able to justify that request to a judge. Arguing that you got a great new job offer a couple of towns over will usually not suffice. Everything has to be done for the best interests of your child, and if you believe that taking this job is in your child's best interest it may be more difficult to convince a judge of that.
Who does the driving if you intend to move to a location farther away from your child?
It should not surprise you that if you choose to move farther from your child that you will be the parent who takes up the burden of doing all of the extra driving. Of course, if your child’s other parent is willing to help with the driving that could ease your burden, but you would need to figure that out of yourself. Otherwise, you will likely be responsible for providing transportation to the other parent’s home.
If you do go back to court and get a new agreement set up in writing, you should take into account costs associated with travel (airline tickets, gas, etc.) and how those costs are going to be divided between the two parents. If reimbursing the other parent for money spent is something that you are interested in the specifics of that arrangement will need to be spelled out as well.
How will moving impact your child?
This is a difficult question for me to write about since I don't know your child and don't know the dynamics of your family. You are more than likely going to see your childless in the future than you do now if you choose to move farther away from him or her. This isn't because you don't have the desire to see your child, but there are real constraints to your schedule that you need to keep in mind when having to travel long distances. Your heart may want to see your child every other weekend, but if your schedule will not allow it then it doesn't make sense to keep that visitation arrangement in place.
You can attempt to schedule a phone call with your child multiple times each week in order to make up part of the difference in your loss of time with him or her. Technology is definitely your friend in this regard. Phone calls, text messages, Face Time, Skype, e-mail and countless other methods of communication make distance less of an issue when it comes to interacting with your child.
However, nothing can replace being physically present with your child. You know this, even if you are trying to sell yourself, a judge or your child’s other parent on alternative means of visitation. You should take the time necessary to explain to your child why you are moving and what you envision for your relationship with him or her. Do not assume that your child will automatically see things just as you do. In fact, it is likely that your child will not.
If you intend to move away from where your child lives then you need to plan this process out. You can no longer move freely without considering what a court would say about your potential move. Consult with your child’s other parent to determine how they feel. Getting a modification of your court order without having to go into a courtroom is probably your best bet. Otherwise, going to court to seek permission from a judge to be able to move and maintain the same visitation orders may be like asking to have your cake and eat it too.
Questions about your family law situation? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about your particular family law circumstances, 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 where we can answer your questions and provide specific answers to your issues.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Support Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child support, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX child support lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our child support 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 support 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.