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Can a Primary Parent Relocate Outside of Texas?

One issue tending to show up with a fair degree of regularity in Texas family law is the relocation of a parent who has primary physical custody (or “managing conservatorship”). Often, a parent who acquires primary physical custody in divorce later desires to relocate to another area. If the proposed relocation only covers a very small physical distance – say, just a few city blocks – then this type of relocation can typically occur without court involvement. If the planned relocation involves a significant distance, such as spanning several hours by car, it will necessitate prior approval from a Texas court. When a parent makes this type of proposal, that parent will need to file a formal motion with the court. This motion is a proposed modification of the existing custody order, and motions to modify an order require an independent analysis by the court. In this post, we will discuss the details of how a Texas court will analyze a given proposal to modify an order to allow relocation.

Showing a Basis to Modify a Current Custody Order

As mentioned, not every relocation will require a motion to modify, and the reason is because not every relocation will disrupt the current custody arrangement. The reason why a given relocation may require a motion to modify is because some relocations will obviously disrupt the custody arrangement between the primary custodial parent and the non-custodial parent. When a parent relocates over a substantial physical distance, this will likely impact the ability of the non-custodial parent to have the same level of visitation which was arranged prior to the relocation.

To successfully modify a given custody order, the court needs to see that there has been a material change in circumstances which warrants the proposed modification. Hence, a court won’t simply grant a proposed modification because the parent filing the motion desires the relocation; there must be a legitimate reason on which to base the relocation, and a legitimate reason is one which constitutes a “material change” in circumstances.

Relocation Must Be Consistent with the “Best Interest” Principle

Various things can constitute a material change in circumstances in the State of Texas. Ordinarily, a relocating parent cites things such as a new employment offer, remarriage to a new partner, loss of a current job, or something else. Whatever the specifics, the cited reason must be something constituting a material change. However, even if the party seeking relocation can identify a material change in circumstances, the proposed relocation still must be consistent with the “best interest” of the children standard. The court will review the proposed relocation and look specifically at how the relocation would impact the current custody situation. If the court finds that the relocation wouldn’t be consistent with the best interest principle, the relocation may be denied. The court might make such a determination if, for instance, the proposed relocation would significantly curtail visitation for the non-custodial parent.

Courts Consider a Variety of Factors in the Analysis

In its analysis on whether the proposal is consistent with the best interest of the children, Texas courts will consider a large variety of factors. There is no limit or maximum for how many factors may potentially be used in this analysis. Certain factors are known to hold weight in this judicial analysis. Known factors are things such as each parent’s current relationship with the children, each parent’s financial condition, each parent’s living situation, each parent’s employment situation, the distance of the proposed relocation, the wishes of the non-relocating parent, the stated wishes of the children (whenever possible), and others as well.

Contact Goldsberry, Portz & Lutterbie, PLLC for Additional Information

If you want more information on relocation, child custody arrangements, or another related topic, contact one of the family law attorneys at Goldsberry, Portz & Lutterbie, PLLC today by calling 281-485-3500.

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