Child custody is one of the most contentious issues involved in a divorce. And, custody could still be an issue months or years after the divorce is finalized and custody is established. After all, life continues to move forward, and circumstances may change over time.
For example, you or your ex-spouse may receive a new job opportunity out of state or feel compelled to move outside of Texas. Now, child custody could become a significant issue again that affects the relationship with your children.
In these cases, I am often asked, “Can a custodial parent can move out of state in Texas?” Ultimately, the answer is yes, provided that the custodial parent takes the appropriate legal steps and complies with the provisions of their custody order. Let’s examine further.
When Can a Custodial Parent Move out of State in Texas?
Custodial parents must adhere to all relevant Texas child custody laws before attempting to move out of state, and it’s not as simple as just moving. If they fail to notify the court, they could potentially face criminal charges and may be temporarily stripped of their custody.
You can only move out of state after receiving permission from a court. However, it’s not a one-way street. The non-custodial parent’s rights must also be considered when a court determines whether to allow a child custody order to be modified.
Non-custodial parents should also be aware of their rights following a divorce in Texas. Understanding the rights granted to them by Texas family courts can ensure that their child is not unjustly taken out of state and away from family members.
Whether you are a custodial parent planning to move or a non-custodial parent concerned about the custodial parent moving, you will want to learn more about how the legal process works.
Continue reading to learn more about the key tenets of Texas child custody laws pertaining to moving out of state. The information below will be invaluable as you navigate the challenges of co-parenting a child after a divorce in Texas.
I also recommend that you reach out to me for specific legal support in your situation. An experienced family law attorney can help protect your parental rights to maintain a positive relationship with your child!
The Importance of Joint Managing Conservatorship in Custody
Let’s go back to the beginning when a divorce is finalized. In most divorce cases in Texas involving minor children, the courts will institute what’s known as “joint managing conservatorship.” This is more commonly known as joint legal custody, and the terms can be used interchangeably.
(However, if one spouse has a history of abuse, domestic violence, or other concerning behavior, the other party may be awarded sole managing conservatorship. When this occurs, the court order may give the custodial parent the right to move the child out of state.)
During the more common situation of joint managing conservatorship, the parents will have shared rights for making important decisions concerning the child, including where the child is going to live.
Keep in mind that joint legal custody is not the same as equal time-sharing. Even though parents may be awarded joint managing conservatorship, the child may spend more time with one parent than the other. The exact details of time-sharing are outlined in a parenting plan, which parents can draft on their own accord.
If a parenting plan is not drafted or the parents cannot agree on time-sharing, the court will settle these issues during divorce proceedings. One important issue that is often dealt with during the divorce is geographic restrictions for each parent.
The exact geographic restrictions included in a parenting plan will vary based on the unique factors of each case. However, custodial parents are typically required to reside in the county that issued the court order.
The judge may also allow the custodial parent to live in an adjacent county that is a reasonable distance to where the non-custodial parent can still visit with their children according to the parenting time schedule. These restrictions will be outlined in the court order.
Suppose there is a geographic-related issue that comes up after the divorce is finalized. In that case, the court will review the original order and consider modifying the order to account for a change in circumstances.
How Does It Work Deciding if the Parent Can Move Out of State?
Custodial parents that share conservatorship will have to petition the court for the right to move out of state. The court will likely require the petitioner to explain why they need to relocate out of state.
For instance, the court will consider an argument from the custodial parent that they need to relocate for work because they cannot obtain comparable employment opportunities in Texas.
Another common argument from a custodial parent is needing to relocate to another state where close family members live. This way, they can build a stronger support system to assist with caring for the child(ren).
Regardless of the argument, the judge will carefully vet a custodial parent’s reason for moving out of state. The judge will want to ensure that moving out of Texas is not being used as a tool to interfere with the other parent’s ability to see the child.
At the end of the day, the judge will be compelled to act “in the best interest of the child,” as outlined in the Texas Family Code. This will be one of the most critical factors that influence the judge’s decision of whether to allow the custodial parent to move out of state with the children.
Contact a Family Law Attorney to Learn More
As you can see, custody issues can quickly become complex when the custodial parent desires to relocate. That is why it is vital to seek professional legal support for your case.
Whether you are a custodial parent who wants to move out of state or a non-custodial parent who needs to understand your rights better and protect your ability to maintain a relationship with your children, I can help.
As an experienced family law attorney in Texas, I will provide you with timely legal advice based on your individual situation. I will help address concerns such as child support, geographic restrictions on a parent moving, and other child custody laws in our state.
I currently help parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, contact my offices for a consultation.
Call me today at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to get started. Let’s further discuss when a custodial parent can move out of state in Texas and how the legal process works. I’m here to help!