In Texas, relocation by a custodial parent, especially when it involves moving a child away from the other parent, is subject to legal limitations and requires court approval in many cases.
Relocation can significantly impact the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent and may require modifications to existing custody and visitation arrangements. Therefore, Texas law imposes strict guidelines to ensure that relocation decisions are made in the best interests of the child.
Relocation Restrictions and Child Custody
The legal limitations on relocation in Texas are governed by the Texas Family Code and relevant case law. In a divorce order, the judge typically places geographic restrictions on the primary residence of the child. Generally, a custodial parent cannot relocate with a child beyond these geographic limits without either the consent of the other parent or approval from the court.
Process for Relocation With a Child After Divorce
The process for having a relocation approved typically involves the following steps.
Provide Notice to the Non-Custodial Parent
The custodial parent who intends to relocate with the child must provide formal notice to the non-custodial parent. The notice should include specific information about the proposed relocation, such as the new address, reasons for the move, and a proposed visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent.
In most cases, the custodial parent must give notice at least 60 days before the date of the planned move. The non-custodial parent then has 30 days to file a motion objecting to the relocation.
Attempt to Reach Agreement
After receiving notice of the intended relocation, the non-custodial parent and custodial parent may attempt to reach an agreement regarding the move and any necessary modifications to custody and visitation arrangements. If the non-custodial parent consents to the relocation, the parties can submit a written agreement to the court for approval.
File a Relocation Petition with the Court
If the non-custodial parent does not consent to the relocation, the custodial parent must file a petition with the court seeking approval for the move. The petition should include detailed information about the reasons for the relocation and the potential impact on the child’s well-being.
Court Evaluation of Relocation Factors
The court will evaluate various factors to determine whether the proposed relocation is in the best interests of the child. These factors may include:
- The reasons for the proposed relocation, such as employment opportunities, educational opportunities, or proximity to family support.
- The potential impact of the relocation on the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent and other family members.
- The child’s age, needs, and preferences, if they are old enough to express them.
- The ability of the non-custodial parent to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child after the relocation.
Court Hearing and Decision
The court will hold a hearing to consider evidence and arguments presented by both parties regarding the proposed relocation. Based on the evidence and the best interests of the child, the court will make a decision on whether to approve or deny the relocation.
If the court approves the relocation, it may also modify existing custody and visitation orders to accommodate the move. This may involve adjusting visitation schedules, transportation arrangements, or other aspects of the parenting plan to facilitate continued contact between the child and the non-custodial parent.
It’s important for custodial parents considering relocation to consult with an experienced family law attorney to understand their rights and obligations under Texas law. Likewise, non-custodial parents who object to a proposed relocation should seek legal advice to protect their interests and advocate for the best interests of their child.