What do I need to do if I am the custodial parent seeking to relocate out-of-state with my child?

If your family court order includes a geographic restriction on your child’s primary residence, you MUST file a modification action with the court of continuing jurisdiction under the Texas Family Code section 156.102.  Texas courts are very hesitant to lift a geographic restriction on the primary domicile of a child, ‘unless’, the noncustodial parent is no longer residing in the same geographic area as the child.

If I have the exclusive right in my Texas court order to designate my child’s primary residence, do I have to notify the other parent or the court?

All family court orders in Texas, including a divorce decree or an order in a suit affecting a parent-child relationship, must designate one parent as the conservator having the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of a child. However, you must be aware of any geographic restrictions in your Texas court order even though you may be the custodial parent.  Most Dallas County Courts will order the geographic restriction of a child to the same county of residence and to contiguous counties if requested.

What is the standard or requirement I must meet to have the court grant my motion to modify the court order and allow me to relocate either out-of-state or out of the jurisdiction of the court?

If you are the custodial parent who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child and you are seeking or consenting to the modification, the “best interest of the child” will always be the ultimate standard the court will apply in making a decision on your motion. Other factor involving possession periods, support, domestic violence, etc. by the noncustodial parent will be considered by the Court.

What relevant evidence or facts do I need to present to the court to get a favorable ruling on my motion?

Any evidence or facts presented to the court to justify a modification or elimination of the terms of a geographic restriction will have to be legally sufficient as if it is a “suit seeking to modify the designation of the conservator having the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of a child”. The court will also consider the circumstances of the non-custodial parent including additional costs, expenses, and time requirements the non-custodial parent will incur.

Will I incur additional obligations or costs if the court grants my motion to modify the geographic restriction and allow me to relocate with my child?

In most cases where the court grants the motion to modify or eliminate the geographic restriction, the parent seeking to relocate will incur additional travel expenses or obligations to facilitate or maintain the possession and visitation periods of the non-custodial parent.

Are conservators able to enter into written agreements to modify geographic restrictions?

Yes. Texas courts will generally approve written agreements duly filed with the court of continuing jurisdiction providing for modification or elimination of the child’s primary residence. The court’s primary consideration will always be the “best interest of the child”.

Are there certain factors that the court considers in a relocation case?

Most court rulings are based on the particular facts in the individual case. However, there are certain factors which the court will consider. The following are a non-exclusive lists of factors: the distance involved in the relocation; the quality of the relationship between the non-custodial parent and the child; the nature and quantity of the child’s contacts with the non-custodial parent; whether the relocation would deprive the non-custodial parent of regular and meaningful access to the child; the impact of the move on the quantity and quality of the child’s future contact with the non-custodial parent; the motive for the move; the motive for opposing the move; the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-custodial parent and the child through suitable visitation arrangements; and the proximity, availability, and safety of travel arrangements”.