You have final orders in your custody case and you have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child. The problem is that this right is subject to a geographical restriction (ex. Dallas County and contiguous counties, Kaufman County and contiguous counties, etc.) and therefore it puts a restriction on you and where you can live. You currently had a meeting with your boss and they want to relocate you or you have found better employment opportunities out of state. You know that this would be really good for your family, but you feel as though your hands are tied because of this geographic restriction.
However, you may have the opportunity to seek a modification to lift the geographical restriction. It truly depends upon your situation, the factors that the court will consider, and even the presiding judge. In fact, this is a difficult decision for courts. On one hand, you have the public policy of frequent and continuing contact under Texas Family Code Section 153.001(a)(1) which states that “children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child”. On the other hand, you have the primary parents who really need this move to better their family. Therefore, Texas courts struggle with this decision in modifications. The Texas Supreme Court Lenz v. Lenz does offer guidance with respect to factors that would support relocation. For instance, the Court and courts after it have examined: the other parent’s lack of interest in the child; prior connections to the new location (do you have family there, have you ever lived there, etc.); and reasons for the move.
Therefore, if you have an opportunity for a job in another state that pays considerably more money, you have familial ties in the state and the job is located near that family, you originally lived in that state, you only moved to Texas for your ex-spouse, your ex-spouse is not exercising their visitation, and you do not have anyone additional in this state to support you then that is definite grounds to discuss a modification. Additionally, it is helpful if you have a roadmap already planned out that can be explained to the judge. For example, where you are going to live, where you are going to work, where the child will attend school, and any extracurricular activities for the child. If you are the parent moving, most likely the court will make you pay all travel expenses for the child to have visitation with the other parent. Many courts use this order as compensation to the parent who remains in Texas. Like with many family law issues, this is a decision the courts must take on a case-by-case basis. As you can see, there are several issues to discuss with your attorney.
To get a case like this started, we would file a petition to modify and request a temporary orders hearing. The Court may or may not lift the geographical restriction at temporary orders hearing; rather, most courts reserve it for final hearing issue. In some cases, the parties know the judge’s stance on geographical restrictions and so instead request a jury trial for this determination.
If you are facing this issue and you need more advice, contact Guest & Gray. Call and schedule yours today.