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Geographic restrictions in Texas child custody laws

For Texas parents who have children and are considering divorce, the issue sometimes arises of whether the parent with primary custody of a child is allowed to relocate after the divorce. In some cases, a primary parent may have moved to Texas as a native of another state or country. They may wish to return to their home of origin once the divorce is concluded.

Under Texas law, a Family Court judge has the authority to restrict the primary residence to certain geographic areas. For example, a judge may decide to prevent the primary parent from taking the child abroad in cases where parents have ties to foreign nations. Another example might be a judge requiring the primary parent to keep the child in a particular school district.

There is no default presumption of where the primary parent should reside in the Texas Family Code. However, a spouse who wants to add a geographic restriction to the divorce agreement must first provide a justification for that limitation to the court. For example, a primary parent who is the victim of domestic violence from the other parent may request that a geographic restriction be denied for their protection.

Alternatively, a non-primary parent who is the coach of the child's Little League baseball team and wishes to stay actively involved in the child's life may request that the court restrict the primary parent from leaving a certain geographic area.

Either way, a compelling argument will need to be made that the geographic restriction is or is not in the child's best interests.

However, it is important to know that in child custody cases geographic restrictions are not set in stone. If circumstances change, the restrictions can be amended. For example, if one parent subsequently gets arrested and is incarcerated for lengthy time, that may be a compelling reason to request the court to remove the geographic restriction.

Source: Texas State Legislature, Family Code- Title 5. The Parent-Child Relationship, "Chapter 153- Conservatorship, Possession and Access." Aug. 20, 2014

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