Child custody decisions are not made in a vacuum. Life keeps moving, and it is not uncommon for a parent with custody orders to need to relocate. However, if a parental relocation is not handled the right way, it can cause problems. Texas family law clients deserve to know what the rules are when it comes to moving.
Youngberg Law Firm serves clients in Denton County and beyond, with an eye towards expeditiously resolving cases so you can get on with your life. If either you or the other parent are planning a move in the near future, we can explain your rights and obligations. And if legal action is threatened, we’ll go to work to advocate for you.
How a Parental Relocation Will Affect You
Whether you or the other parent anticipate a parental relocation, it will affect you. Some parents move across town, while others move to another part of the world. Regardless, the custody order has to be followed. And that could present a challenge.
If you’re the parent who is considering a move, it may become difficult to meet your obligations under the custody order. You may be unable, for example, to drop off your child at the other parent’s house on time. Conversely, the other parent’s move could be cause for alarm. Can you count on the other parent to abide by the carefully worked out possession schedule?
Even if you can still meet your obligations under the court order, there’s another potential issue. These orders often contain geographic restrictions that limit relocation. These restrictions usually compel a parent to reside with the child in either the jurisdiction where the order was obtained or in a neighboring county. If your move is local, this may not be a problem; if it’s farther away, it will be.
How To Handle The Relocation
Most relocations do not occur without notice. The parent who is relocating usually knows well in advance that a new career, or other situation will make the move necessary. And the same is true for the non-relocating parent. Regardless of which side you’re on, it’s imperative to take immediate action once it becomes clear the move will happen.
If the parental relocation does not affect either your rights or obligations under the custody order, it is likely that no action is required. For example, if you (or the other party) move within any geographic restriction, and the possession schedule is not impacted. Provided the relocating parent isn’t moving to a dangerous area that would threaten the best interests of the child, the move is probably acceptable. In these circumstances, the relocating parent usually would only need to provide the appropriate notice to the other party of the upcoming move.
If the move would either violate or cause a parent to violate the custody order, the order will have to be modified prior to moving. In these cases it is definitely better for the moving party to ask permission from the court first, rather than asking for forgiveness later. Courts expect their orders to be followed and violating a geographic restriction could lead to the court changing primary custody of the child, changing parental rights, and even jail time. Even if the parents verbally agree to allow adjustments to the order, a formal modification will need to be worked out.
Modifying The Court Order
This modification will take place in one of two ways:
By agreement. Ideally, the parents will discuss the move, the impact it will have on the order, and the best way to modify it. If the parents can agree to a modification, it will save them both time, money, and stress. Typically the court will still have to sign off on the change, even if the parents both agree, though judges are typically willing to sign off on agreements between the parties unless they are clearly not in the child’s best interest.
Having an experienced child custody attorney is critical at this stage for at least two reasons. First, your attorney will make sure that any issues raised by the relocation are addressed. It may not be a matter simply of adjusting how the child will split time between the parents. Child support could be impacted if one parent has more or fewer overnights with the child. Travel arrangements may need to be addressed, as well as holidays. The simple fact is, relocations can affect many components of your custody order, and you need an attorney to review them to make sure everything is covered.
Secondly, you need an attorney who can draft an appropriate modified agreement that the court will accept. Some parents, with good intentions, attempt to draft and execute their own modifications. But these are often done incorrectly and are not legally enforceable. Have an attorney take care of this critical step so the move can happen without causing issues down the road.
By court decision. If you and the other parent cannot agree on how to address the move, the court will need to get involved. This often happens when the non-relocating parent believes the relocating parent is trying to deprive him or her of time with the child. But it can also occur when the parties agree in principle to the move and simply can’t work out the details.
Either way, the relocating parent will have to file a motion to modify the custody order. In reviewing the motion, the court has to consider several factors in deciding whether to allow the move, including:
- The relocating parent’s reason for the move
- The non-relocating parent’s reason for objecting to the move
- How far the relocating parent would move
- The impact the relocation will have on the non-relocating parent’s access to the child
- The effect the move will have on the child, including his or her education
- Anything else affecting the child’s best interests
The judge’s decision will depend heavily on the specific facts in your case. These matters also invoke complex areas of Texas child custody law. Having an experienced, aggressive attorney is essential to protecting your parental rights and achieving the best outcome for you and your child.
Contact a Denton County Parental Relocation Attorney Today
Custody matters are never easy, even in the best case scenario where the parents agree. If you or the other parent are contemplating a move, it’s critical to take action now. You can trust the Youngberg Law Firm. We’ll discuss your case, explain how the relocation will affect it, and develop a comprehensive legal strategy that meets your and your child’s needs. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation.