Relocation of the Custodial Parent

Be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Child Custody for the most information about child custody in Texas. You have visitation rights to your children with your ex-spouse or ex-partner though you don't have custody. Though many people use the word "custody" quite loosely, it is a word that people typically use to describe the parent that has the right to designate the child's residence. What happens if you are exercising visitation that the court awarded you but then your ex decides to move to another city? What if they are planning on moving out of the state or even out of the country? This happens quite often, especially if there is no prior court order specifically forbidding it.

What if the Custodial Parent Wants to Move?

Texas law encourages parents to have equal access to their children. Family law court orders concerning child custody often require the custodial parent to live in a certain geographical area, generally the county where the children currently resides or even possibly the adjoining counties. Additionally, the custodial parent is expected to allow the noncustodial parent maximum visitation time with the children.

Custodial parents who need to move out of the designated area must give the noncustodial parent at least 60 days written notice of the move and petition the court for permission. If the noncustodial parent does not object to the move, the parents need to file a document with the court stating they both agree to the move and outlining how visitation will be conducted.

If the noncustodial parent objects to the move, the court will have a hearing where both sides present evidence to support why the move should or should not be allowed. The parent who wants to relocate must show there has been a “material and substantial change in circumstances” since the prior order and there are compelling reasons for the move. This may include relocation for a job or to be nearer other family members that can help care for and support the children.

The Court Will Consider, Among Other Things:

  • The compelling circumstances for the relocation;
  • How disruptive the move will be for the children; and
  • What influence the relocation will have on the children’s education, extra-curricular activities, relationship with other siblings, step-siblings or grandparents.

The court bases its decision on what is in the best interest of the children. If the court believes the custodial parent wants to move in order to disrupt the relationship with the noncustodial parent, the court will deny the request to move.

If you are a custodial parent who needs to relocate, or a non-custodial parent who objects to the relocation of the custodial parent, family law attorneys experienced in custody issues can help.