Moving with Children in Texas after a Divorce

Relocating after a divorce with children is a complex legal matter and there are many potential hazards for the unwary

Divorce is often a disorienting process of change, from a having a family with a father, mother and children to having two separate households, typically with the children spending time with each parent. The couple's marriage failed for any number of reasons, but even if you had an amicable divorce or, at least, one that was not bitterly contentious, you have to navigate a very different world when your divorce becomes final.

You have to become accustomed to the legal verbiage of the Texas Family Law Code as incorporated in your Divorce Decree. Your relationship to your children is typically known as a Joint Managing Conservatorship if you and your former spouse remain involved in your children's lives. The Texas Family Code presumes that this relationship should be ordered, and while you can choose other configurations, you will likely need to provide strong supporting evidence of why you would want another option to convince a Judge to deviate from the standard presumption of what is in the best interests of your child(ren).

If you and your children's other parent can work out a parenting plan together, that plan will control many aspects of your children's lives, and by default, your own schedule, over the life of the plan. A well thought out parenting plan will make your life easier and more predictable, but even the best plan cannot deal with all of the potential variable events that you and your children may invariably experience.

Moving?

The parenting plan will detail where the child lives and likely limit where each child's residence may be moved, if at all. If you cannot afford your current home, you may need to move to a less expensive residence, and if you stay within the same city, school district, or county, you may not need the approval of your child's other parent or the Court.

But what if you lose your job or need to relocate across Texas? If you need to move from the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex to Houston or Austin, a parenting plan that has the child spending time with each parent weekly or several times a month would be unworkable and subject to modification in the same Court that granted the divorce.

Is it in the parenting plan?

Your parenting plan may have procedures, such as providing the other parent with adequate notice and perhaps including a mediation process that would allow you an opportunity to work out a new residential custody arrangement prior to getting a new modified Court order. But even with the consent of the other parent, in most cases, you will still need the permission of the Court approving the modification and a modified Court order.

The standard for approval for a modification will be that the change is in the best interests of each child. This is a very complex assessment, and if you need to move out of state, a very involved showing may be necessary to demonstrate to the Court that the move will allegedly benefit each child's best interests.

The more compelling an argument you can assemble, the better. If your job will allow you to obtain a greater income and the children have special interests such as sports, dance, or drama for which the potential schools in the new city which would provide greater opportunities for the children, such evidence could help a judge find that a move would be in each child's best interests.

On the other hand, if each child is well-established in their current school and has numerous quality peer relationships in the community and extracurricular activities, a move could be immensely disruptive, and that could weigh heavily against a move. If you were a parent opposing a relocation that would be the type of evidence you would want to bring to Court to argue against such a move.

Speak with an attorney

Given the complexity of such a change, speaking with an experienced Board-Certified Texas family law expert attorney can be quite helpful and prevent delays or mistakes in requesting or opposing this type of modification to your custody arrangement. An attorney from Gunnstaks Law Office can provide the professional counsel and expert legal advice you need when contemplating this procedure.