Few things bring more stress and contention to a person’s life than a child custody dispute.
Sometimes the parents disagree on custody, and other times they can work together to come up with a good custody arrangement. Nonetheless, the custody order or agreement in Texas likely has a geographic restriction on where the parent who is primary can live.
A new conflict might arise if one parent wants to move out of state with the child. There is no restriction if the parent wishes to move alone.
However, if they want to bring the child, the parents may encounter complications and conflict. Texas child custody laws for moving out of state vary depending on the current child custody arrangement.
Child Custody Arrangements and Relocation Ability
To fully understand the Texas laws on child custody when moving out of state, one must first identify the type of custody order currently in effect. Texas refers to child custody as “conservatorship” under the law. A court order regarding conservatorship is based on the best interests of a child.
Sometimes one parent has been granted sole conservatorship. This means that only one parent has decision-making authority over the child, and the other parent has no right to make decisions. This is a disfavored custody arrangement under Texas law.
However, a court may award sole conservatorship under the following circumstances:
- One parent has exhibited family violence;
- One parent has abused or neglected the child;
- One parent has a history of drug or alcohol abuse; or
- One of the parents has been absent from the child’s life.
The parent with sole conservatorship has the exclusive right to make all critical decisions regarding the child. Under the Texas child custody relocation law, this typically includes where the child resides without any geographic limitation. This means that a parent with sole conservatorship can move the child out of state without a court order. However, it is best to give the other parent notice of the proposed relocation.
Just because there is no technical restriction on the sole conservator moving the child out of state doesn’t mean that it cannot be modified. The other parent may file a petition to modify the custody order asking the court to restrict the child’s residence.
Joint Managing Conservatorship
Under Texas law, there’s a presumption that the child’s best interests are served when both parents are joint managing conservators. The parents can agree to joint conservatorship, or a court can order joint conservatorship after a custody case. Under Texas child custody law, both parents in a joint conservatorship have the right to decide on the child’s residence.
If the parents agree to joint conservatorship, they will create a parenting plan. A parenting plan outlines the rights and duties of each parent, such as when each parent will have time with their child.
A parenting plan also decides who has the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence. The parenting plan will either restrict the geographic residence of the child or include a statement giving one parent the right to choose the child’s residence without restriction.
Sometimes parents are unable to agree on child custody. In these circumstances, the court must craft an order that the judge feels is in the child’s best interests after a trial. Typically the court will order joint managing conservatorship. This order will typically include a geographic restriction as to the child’s residence.
Texas Child Custody Laws When Moving Out of State
A sole conservator parent usually has the exclusive right to decide where the child lives. Under the Texas child custody relocation law, this includes moving out of state. Texas custody orders have full effect in other U.S. states. There is typically no need for sole managing conservators to get child custody orders for moving out of the state of Texas, but each order is different and unique.
For parents with joint conservatorship, it gets more complicated. Under Texas child custody laws, when moving out of state, the parent who is primary must usually get the other parent’s consent if they want to take the child with them.
If they do not obtain consent, they must petition the court to request permission to move out of state. Essentially, they must ask for a modification of the child custody order for moving out of the state of Texas.
Even if the joint conservatorship doesn’t have a geographic restriction on the child’s residence, this doesn’t mean that a parent can always just move the child.
The parent opposing the move can file a temporary restraining order with the court, asking the court to prevent the move. That parent can also submit a motion to the court to modify the child custody order or parenting plan to restrict the child’s residence. The court will look at several factors when deciding if the parent can move the child out of state, but the primary consideration is always the child’s best interest.
Moving with No Custody Agreement or Order
What if both parents have no official custody agreement or court order in place? While there may not be an order in place restricting a parent’s ability to move with the child, the other parent can file a custody suit with the Court to order the parent who moved to return the child to the county from which that parent moved.
If you are concerned that the other parent may move out of state with your child, contact an experienced family lawyer immediately. If you didn’t formalize your custody arrangement in court, you have to act quickly. Texas only maintains jurisdiction over a child custody matter if the child has lived in Texas for six months before filing the custody case.
A family lawyer can help you draft and file a child custody case to formalize a custody arrangement. An official child custody arrangement will lay out both parents’ rights and restrictions concerning the child. This can include a request for a geographic limitation on where your child can live. Often, a court will agree that both parents’ involvement in the child’s life is in the child’s best interest.
Speak with a Skilled Child Custody Lawyer Regarding Your Move
If you are concerned about relocating your child, you should speak with an experienced family lawyer immediately. A skilled lawyer will be able to advise you of your options and fight for your rights.
The Larson Law Office attorneys are knowledgeable family lawyers with experience in child custody cases. We’ve represented many parents in their child custody relocation proceedings in Texas. We take pride in providing personal and individualized service to our clients.