Texas Child Custody and Geographic Restrictions
Whether it is a divorce case or if you were never married, if both parents can reach an agreement that no geographic restrictions are to be included in the Order, then there will likely be no problem with a move away from Texas with the kids.
Of course, this assumes that the Order provides that you are the conservator with the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the children.
Such an agreement could include a geographic restriction that restricts you, for example, to living within certain designated counties within Texas. Or the geographic restriction could be to certain other states.
If you cannot reach an agreement on this issue, the other parent will likely be able to significantly restrict where you are able to live with the children. If a geographic restriction is entered, you must either obtain the agreement of the other parent to remove it, or file a Petition to Modify the Order and ask the Court to remove or modify the restriction.
Geographic Restriction & Texas Family Code
The Texas Family Code addresses issues related to geographic restrictions as follows:
Section 153.001(a) of the Texas Family Code provides that:
“The public policy of this state is to:
(1) assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child;
(2) provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and
(3) encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.”
When the Court enters an Order that appoints parents as joint managing conservators, the court is required to designate one conservator to have the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child.
In conjunction with this, the Court will do one of two things: (1) designate restrictions on the geographic area(s) where the primary conservator can establish the child’s primary residence; or (2) the Court can leave the Order silent on the issue so that the primary conservator can designate the primary residence of the child without a geographic restriction.
Some factors that can influence a Court’s decision on whether to enter a geographic restriction (or lift a geographic restriction) include:
- Job opportunities of the primary conservator;
- Re-marriage of the primary conservator;
- Extended family relationships / support in other jurisdictions;
- History of the possessory conservator’s visitation and communication with the child; and
- The age and maturity of the child.