RELOCATING YOUR CHILDREN
Texas family law courts generally place restrictions on the geographic area where the “primary” parent can choose to live with their children. These restrictions are commonly referred to simply as geographic restrictions. The Texas Family Code is silent with regard to geographic restrictions. However, Texas Courts have a long history of addressing this issue, including numerous Plano Family Law matters handled by the Tadlock Law Office. The factors they typically consider are:
-the reasons for and against the move
-the effect on extended family relationships
-the effect on visitation and communication with the noncustodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child
-the possibility of a visitation schedule allowing the continuation of a meaningful relationship between the noncustodial parent and the child
-the nature of the child’s existing contact with both parents and the child’s age, community ties, and health and educational needs
-whether there is a good-faith reason to request or oppose the move
-the noncustodial parent’s ability to relocate
-the degree of economic, emotional, and educational enhancement for the children and custodial parent
-the need for continuity and stability in custody arrangements
-the best-interest of the child
MODIFYING A GEOGRAPHIC RESTRICTION IN THE REAL WORLD
There are numerous ways that these restrictions can be modified if the primary parent needs—or wants—to move outside of the restricted area. The most frequent of these are:
- The Non-Custodial Parent Moves
- The Non-Custodial Parent Fails to Exercise Possession
- The Non-Custodial Parent Fails to Pay Child Support
The Non-Custodial Parent Moves
Geographic restrictions generally require the Primary Parent to reside within a given area. What is often overlooked is that the Non-Custodial Parent must also reside within that same area. For example, if a geographic restriction in a Plano family law matter requires the Primary Parent to reside within Collin County and counties contiguous thereto, it will generally contain language relating to the Non-Custodial Parent. That language will typically state that the Primary Parent is relieved of the geographic restriction if the Non-Custodial Parent fails to maintain their residence within that same area.
As a result, a Primary Parent can often find themselves able to move wherever they want (even outside the State of Texas) if the Non-Custodial Parent moves away. In the Plano family law example above, if the Non-Custodial Parent moved to Tarrant County, then the Primary Parent would be able to move to Idaho. Presumably the Non-Custodial Parent would seek relief from a Texas Family Court to prevent the move from occurring, but they are in a tactically inferior position.
The Non-Custodial Parent Fails to Exercise Possession
The factors stated above address the relationship between the Non-Custodial Parent and the children. This is a very important matter and cannot be under-emphasized. If the Non-Custodial Parent fails to maintain a meaningful relationship with the children through regularly exercised possession, Texas Family Law Courts are generally willing to modify a geographic restriction.
If you are a Non-Custodial Parent, then it is important to document each of your possession periods if you believe the Primary Parent is considering a move. The moving parent is typically aware of the desire to move well before the Non-Custodial Parent, and begins documenting non-compliance months in advance.
If you are a Primary Parent considering a move, but are unable because of a geographic restriction, then it is important to document the Non-Custodial Parent’s failure to maintain a relationship with your children. This can be done through emails, texts, properly recorded phone calls, etc. The evidence needs to be as clear-cut as possible because a typical Non-Custodial Parent who fails their children may not be honest when testifying.
The Non-Custodial Parent Fails to Pay Child Support
This factor generally arises when the Primary Parent has an employment opportunity, or a family support network, that is outside the geographically restricted area. A Non-Custodial Parent’s failure to support their children financially typically creates a hardship on the Primary Parent. If the Primary Parent cannot afford to bridge this financial gap alone, they typically seek better pay or family assistance.
This scenario is often very fact intensive and each case is different. If the Non-Custodial Parent has a good relationship with the children, but is experiencing a temporary financial set-back, it would seem unlikely that a court would remove a geographic restriction. However, the likelihood of such a modification would likely increase when the Non-Custodial Parent is a long-term scoundrel who has little—if any—relationship with the children.
If you have any questions about how a geographic restriction is affecting you and your children, please contact the Tadlock Law Office at 214-550-1122 to speak with an attorney experienced in these matters, including Plano Family Law.