When parents divorce in Texas, their final divorce decree may include language that restricts whether and how far either party can move after separation.
In addition to ensuring that parents can effectively share childcare responsibilities, relocation restrictions can protect a non-custodial parent’s right to visit their children on a regular basis.
1. Are geographic restrictions always part of a divorce decree?
Not necessarily. Parents who divorce by agreement may choose to include geographic restrictions. Under a litigated divorce, a judge may include restrictions in the final order depending on specific family circumstances.
2. How far do geographic restrictions extend?
Usually geographic restrictions require parents with custodial responsibilities to stay within the same county or within counties immediately surrounding the child’s current residence.
3. What if a parent needs to relocate?
A parent who does not have conservatorship (custody) may be able to relocate for good reason depending on the restrictions laid out in the final divorce order.
A parent who does have conservatorship and the right to choose children’s primary residence may be able to relocate by filing a petition to modify or eliminate any geographic restrictions. Parents who can come to an agreement about relocating children can also file an agreed custody modification case.
In some extenuating cases, a parent may need to relocate before the court can fully approve a change in geographic restrictions. A judge may approve an immediate temporary custody order if a child’s current residence is causing physical or emotional harm, if a parent has voluntarily given up primary care of a child for more than six months, or if a child aged 12 years or older has confided to a judge in chambers that they prefer to live with a certain parent.