When a couple has no children and seeks a divorce, matters tend to be relatively simple. Once property issues get sorted out, the two parties never have to see one another again. However, when children are involved, things get more complicated. The divorcing couple must consider each issue that comes up in light of how it will affect the children. One such problem can come up when one of the parents wants to relocate a significant distance away.
In a typical Texas custody case, the court will issue an order giving one parent the right to choose the primary residence for the children within a specific geographic area. An area can be as large as a particular county and its adjacent counties or as small as a given zip code.
The purpose of these geographic restrictions is to make sure that the parent who does not have primary custody has sufficient access to the children. In most ordinary cases, the courts are highly invested in protecting the parent-child relationship. It is assumed to be in the best interest of the children to have regular contact with both parents. For this reason, courts do not encourage a situation where traveling to see the non-custodial parent is overly complicated and burdensome.
If the custodial parent wants to move away, technically he or she can opt to leave the children with the non-custodial parent. This is clearly an option that is only possible with the agreement and cooperation of both parents.
When a non-custodial parent moves away
If the non-custodial parent moves out from the specified geographic area, the reason for the restrictions no longer exists and the custodial parent can become free to move the children wherever he or she wants.
Lifting or modifying a geographic restriction
If it becomes necessary for a parent to move, he or she will need to get the restriction amended or lifted by the judge. Simply moving in defiance of the restriction would be a violation of a court order and is likely to result in unpleasant consequences.
The judge will consider several factors when deciding whether or not to grant a modification request. These will usually include the extent to which the non-custodial parent has been involved with visitation. The non-custodial parent may find it difficult to claim that he or she needs weekly access to the child when during the child's residence within the geographic area, that parent has often put off or missed scheduled visitations. The judge will also weigh the necessity of the move and the potential benefits to the child.
When it comes to court orders involving children in divorce cases, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. To find out about available options for your particular circumstances, speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney in your area.