Bruce C. Zivley, Attorney at Law

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When a parent wants to relocate

In Texas it is common for one ex-spouse after a divorce to wish to relocate to a new city or state in a quest for better job prospects or an improved quality of life. However, in cases where the custody of a child is involved, the situation becomes more complex.

Joint custody is the preferred outcome for all Texas divorce cases. However, it often happens that one or all children live with one parent while the noncustodial parent has visitation rights. Unfortunately, Texas is a large enough state that even the relocation to a different city can cause a child to de facto lose access to the noncustodial parent. As such, the parent without the right of possession may choose to dispute the move in court.

A new visitation schedule must be proposed by the relocating parent and agreed to by the noncustodial parent and the court. Relocation does not necessarily affect conservatorship, or the right to make important decisions in the life of the child such as choice of school, medical plans of treatment and activities. The court has the right to forbid the relocation of a child if it determines that the child is in a better situation where they currently are. If the child is old enough to make responsible decisions, then the wishes of the child may also be taken into account by the court.

The Texas court system has encountered many cases where the best interests of the child must be balanced amidst competing factors. It may behoove a parent who desires a specific legal outcome to consult with an attorney about the best way to present evidence demonstrating where the child or children will find the most nurturing and comfortable environment.

Source: Findlaw, "Child Custody Relocation Laws", November 20, 2014

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