Most Texas custody court orders control where the children can live. Typically children are restricted to the county where their case is concluded, although it can be different than that. Why? Courts want children to be raised by both parents, even though they have split up. These residency rules are called ‘domicile restrictions’.
Domicile restrictions are often as heavily litigated as custody itself. There are several reasons for this:
- Custody is usually pretty predictable at the outset of a case;
- With the non-custodial parent usually having a Standard Possession Order with elections, the amount of free time each parent gets to spend with their kids is relatively similar; and,
- Domicile restrictions rulings are usually more difficult to predict than custody.
The non-custodial parent is the one that pushes for a domicile restriction because they want to be part of their children’s lives. If the custodial parent doesn’t agree to the restriction, it is usually because they want to be closer to family, work, or a new love interest. Courts usually consider those desires less important than the children having both parents nearby.
When the non-custodial parent moves away, then what happens? That does destroy the whole purpose of a domicile restriction, after all. The answer depends on what is in the Order/Decree that governs your children. There are usually two options in this situation:
- If the non-custodial parent moves outside of the domicile restriction; then the custodial parent can move anywhere that they want to; or,
- The domicile restriction stays in place (no change is mentioned or a move is forbidden).
Well written Orders/Decrees will have the first option in them. This usually solves any problems, in part because the non-custodial parent knows the consequences of a move ahead of time.
If the Decree is silent, then you’ll need to get an agreement (best is a revised Court Order) to make the move; or a trial to give you that right. Filing and getting to a hearing/trial is a long and expensive process. Courts should usually allow a move if the other parent has moved, although it might be within reason (if the non-custodial parent moved 50 miles away, the Court might not allow the custodial parent to move 1,000 miles away).
In summary, it is best to have a clear and well-written Order in place at all time. Normally when the non-custodial parent moves away, the custodial parent is allowed to move.