There is one thing you can count on in life, and that is that nothing stays the same. After your divorce and child custody has been determined, one parent may be required to move for a job. Or a parent may want to put some physical distance between themselves and their ex as part of a plan of starting over.
This brings up questions about how relocation affects visitation. In the state of Texas, the courts first consider the best interest of the child, even in parental relocation. Since no two cases are the same, and it is entirely within the court’s discretion to allow or prohibit a move.
If you are considering relocation, or your ex has announced they are planning to relocate, you’ll want to consult with a family law attorney to ensure that your children’s visitation is uninterrupted.
Texas Law Covers Child Custody Relocation
Some parents may fear that their ex will look for another state where they will get better child custody terms. However, there are legal processes in place that help to resolve jurisdictional issues between states.
The technical term for custody and visitation orders in Texas is a possession order. In the Standard Possession Order for children older than three years, one parent has visitation rights and the other has custody. The non-custodial parent will be given predetermined times for visitation. The Possession Order will also address holidays, birthdays, summer vacations, and special holidays that are important to the parent.
According to Texas law, there are no geographic restrictions for a parent who wishes to relocate. The parent who has primary physical custody can move to any county adjacent to the one where the divorce was finalized. However, moving further away requires a court order.
Legal Processes Protect Jurisdictional Issues
To pursue a relocation, the parents may get approval by agreement with their ex or through court intervention. Parents can come to an agreement about the relocation but may still have issues that must be addressed within the court.
For example, an increase or decrease in child support, access, or change and travel schedules may need to be determined. Your family law attorney can help determine whether your agreement is enforceable and advise you about anything that might be missing.
In some cases, when parents are unable to reach an agreement, court intervention may be required. The non-moving parent may wish to contest the move, or one parent may believe the move is not in the child’s best interest. When disputes arise, a parent must take action to protect a child. It is crucial to discuss your concerns with an experienced family law attorney who can help protect your rights.
Child custody becomes complex when one parent moves out of state. It can create legal difficulties when custody orders from another state conflict with Texas law. There are two legal processes in place to help resolve these jurisdictional issues.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a multi-state compact. Under this act, the child’s home state retains jurisdiction, and the court enforces the orders that are entered in other states. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) limits jurisdictions that can modify possession orders. Every state was required by law to adopt the UIFSA, which helps establish a consistent process for out-of-state orders.
Reasons Parents Move
When the court intervenes in a relocation or is reviewing the negotiated agreement you came to with your ex, they can consider several factors. One of those is the reason you have listed for relocation. Some of the reasons parents may have that are appropriate include:
- A new job
- Better housing
- Attending school
- Moving closer to extended family members
- Other parent fails to exercise visitation
One parent may also choose to move to protect their children from risks with the nonprimary parent that may include criminal activity, such as substance abuse or domestic violence.
Typically, the court supports the ability of the children to live near both parents. When one parent decides to move out of state, this may impact the other’s right to visitation. The burden of convincing the court there is a legitimate reason to move lies with the parent who wants to move.
If the court has reason to believe that the parent wants to move out of state to impact the child’s relationship with their other parent, the relocation will not be granted.
A parent may file a temporary restraining order to stop the child from being moved out of state or out of the geographical area. Violation of that order may result in parental abduction charges. This is a state felony and may lead to jail time.
Whether you are seeking permission from the court to relocate or want to stop your children from being moved, the San Antonio child custody lawyers at Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P. will help protect your rights and ensure the court has all the information they need to reach a fair decision. It’s our goal to do what’s best for you and your children. Call our legal team today at (210) 349-9933 or contact us online to schedule your confidential consultation.