Do You Need Your Ex-Spouse’s Permission? Must the Court Approve the Move?
We live in an increasingly mobile society. Census data indicates that the average American moves more than 11 times in his or her life. What if you are a divorced parent of minor children? What are the restrictions on your rights as a custodial parent to relocate outside of Texas, whether for a job, a new marriage, a desire to be closer to family, or a change of scenery? What rights do you have as a non-custodial parent to limit or prevent an interstate move by your ex-spouse?
The Texas Standard — The Best Interests of the Child
The prevailing consideration in Texas, in all matters that might impact minor children, is “the best interests of the child.” Courts apply that standard when establishing custody (conservatorship) and visitation (access), and also when making decisions regarding relocation by a custodial parent.
Texas promotes frequent contact between children and both of their parents and encourages parents to share parenting responsibilities; for those reasons, courts presume that living in proximity to each other is in the child’s best interests. Because a child’s best interests differ from situation to situation, courts must consider relocation requests on a case-by-case basis. A court will look first at the reasons for the move and whether those reasons affect the child. Other concerns may include:
- The impact the move will have on the child’s family and community relationships — Does the child have a strong relationship with the non-custodial parent? Does the child have many close friends? Does the child participate in many community-based programs or activities?
- The effect on the non-custodial parent’s access to and visitation with the child — How often will the child see the parent and for how long? Where will visitation take place? Can the non-custodial parent afford the costs of visitation in another state?
- The change in economic, educational, emotional and extracurricular opportunities for the child — Will the child have access to the same educational opportunities? What will be the impact on the child’s standard of living? Can the child participate in sports or other activities that have been integral to his or her life?
Relocation Almost Always Requires Permission of the Other Parent or the Court
Divorced parents can always agree to a relocation, but the court may still review the decision to ensure that there was no coercion or undue influence and that relocation is in the best interests of the child. Without consent of the other parent or the court, a custodial parent may move out-of-state with minor children only if the existing child custody order allows such relocation without prior consent (such instances are extremely rare). If your divorce decree is silent about relocation, you cannot relocate with minor children without permission of the other spouse or the court. If the non-custodial parent refuses to agree to the relocation, you can petition the court to allow the move. The court will then apply the “best interests of the child” standard.
A parent who takes a child out of the state of Texas without permission is technically considered to be in contempt of court and may face fines and even incarceration. Because Texas has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, a non-custodial parent can go to court in the child’s new state of residence and ask the court to enforce all custody and visitation rights in the Texas order. The custodial parent can then face contempt proceedings in the new state of residence.
Contact the Proven Family Law Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we can help you protect your rights related to the relocation of minor children after a divorce. We offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with one of our experienced Texas family law attorneys, contact us online or call us at 844-402-2992. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.