Geographic Restrictions in Child Custody Cases

Summer Break means time to move.

Summer Break means time to move.

Summer is almost here and school is out.  That means moving time for many couples, and it also means changes in schools.  Accordingly, I felt the time is right to address a very common question I get asked which relates to restrictions on the residence of the child.  To put this into context, anytime there is a lawsuit involving child custody, the Court will consider a geographic restriction on the residence of the child(ren).  In fact, the geographic restriction is free for the asking which means the parent who wants it gets it by merely asking.  The parent who does not want the restriction, or who wants to get rid of a restriction via a modification has the burden to show it is in the child’s best interest.

Simply put, when your spouse request a geographic restriction on the residence of the children, he or she will get it unless you (the parent that wants to defeat it) can show the Judge that  lifting the restriction will not affect the relationship between the parent asking and the kids.  The purpose of a geographic restriction on the residence of a child helps explain:  the restriction is designed to ensure the parent with whom the children do not live has a continual relationship with the kids and the kids have access to that parent.

It is perhaps easier to understand this way – at divorce or separation the children cannot live with both parents since the parents do not live together.  Accordingly, one parent has to be the parent with whom the children live most of the time.  We will refer to this parent as the “Custodial Parent” or parent with primary custody although the proper term in Texas is Primary Conservator.  The other parent, commonly called the Non-Custodial Parent or Possessory Conservator has the children at designated times – usually on alternating weekends, alternating holidays, and some time in the summer.  However most custody orders in Texas contain a provision that if the two Conservators do not live within 100 miles of one another, the Possessory Conservator/NCP gets more time in the summer and every Spring Break but only one weekend a month and reality dictates that the further the parents live from one another, the more it cost to travel between the homes and therefore there is a point on a map where visitation on the weekends tend to cease and the non-custodial parent only sees the kids a few times a year.

To keep the Primary or Custodial parent from having the unfettered discretion to just change visitation schedules by moving there is a geographic restriction.  This restriction really has two purposes. The second (collateral) purpose is to  keep the Primary or Custodial parent from having the unfettered discretion to just change visitation schedules by moving.  The main purpose for a geographic restriction is to facilitate a strong continual parent-child relationship and the subsequent parent-child bond between the children and the non-custodial parent.

The concept is simple enough, the children supposedly eat dinner, are kissed goodnight, woken up, and eat breakfast with the Primary Conservator on a regular basis.  This parent with whom the children reside has ample opportunity to build trust, bond, and participate in the children’s day to day lives.  The other parent however, does not have the same opportunity.  So, the law provides that if the parent wants to enjoy a relationship with his/her kids, the Court must put a geographic restriction in place to help.  This restriction keeps the kids close enough that the second parent (NCP) can have an opportunity to participate in the children’s lives, bond with the children, and develop a relationship with the children.  This relationship is presumed to be in the children’s best interest.

The fact the law presumes a close continual parent-child bond is in the child’s best interest is vital because the Judge has the duty to issue orders that are determined to be in the child’s best interest.  See Texas Family Code ¶153.002.  Simply put, I am often asked “How do I win custody?”  The short answer is always – show the Judge that making you the Custodial or Primary Parent is in the child’s best interest.  Of course, how to do that is a little more complicated and the subject of multiple articles and web pages in it’s own right.  Feel free to use the search bar to the right to read more on the topic.

When it comes to geographic restrictions on the residence of a child the restriction is automatic at the temporary stage.  As soon as either party files a petition seeking a divorce, a petition to establish paternity, or a Petition in a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship the Court issues a restriction that prohibits either parent from removing he children from the jurisdictional limits of the court during the pendency of the proceedings.  In other words, once the lawsuit is started, no one can move the kids out of the area to keep the court from issuing orders or to gain an unfair advantage in the lawsuit – the kids stay put until the case is finished.  Then, at the final hearing on the matter, the Judge will make the geographic restriction permanent unless (1) the parties agree; (2) no one asks; or (3) the parent who wants to defeat the geographic restriction can prove the so-called “Adams Factors”  Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367 (Tex. 1976).

To make matters even worse, or better, depending on your point of view – the Adams factors are not the only standard in a motion to modify.  Your best chance of defeating a geographic restriction is at the first trial.  If the Judge grants the restriction, with or without your agreement and you later want to change the restriction, you have to deal with both the Adams factors and the holdings in the Lenz case.  Lenz v. Lenz, 79 S.W.3d 10 (Tex. 2002).  While Adams focuses on the facts as they exist at the time of the first trial the Lenz case requires a “comparative” analysis of the two proposed residences.  In other words, you not only have to prove best interest under Adams, you have to address (1) reasons for or against the move; (2) compare the health, education and leisure opportunities available to the child at both locations; (3) demonstrate/minimize the effect on visitation and communication with the non-custodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child; and (4) whether the non-custodial parent has resources to relocate.

Getting a geographic restriction is easy – breaking a geographic restriction is VERY difficult but it can be done.  The central question that applies to both is the nature and strength of the relationship between the non-custodial parent and the child.  Simply put, if you are the parent who does not have primary possession of the children, stand up and be a parent, visit with your kids often and make the most of that time.  If you do this, the Court will make the other parent own up and keep the kids close so you can continue to build and enjoy that relationship.  If you don’t, then the other parent may have a few hoops to jump through, but the fastest way to break a geographic restriction is to show the parent it benefits does not take advantage of the benefit it gives.

Dog in cardboard box in empty house

Dog in cardboard box in empty house

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53 Responses to “Geographic Restrictions in Child Custody Cases”

  1. janet says:

    can the child move to another country while under a geo restriction? What are the visa laws?

    • royreeves says:

      No, a geographic restriction is exactly that. Your choice is to get the other parent to agree or go to court and get the restriction lifted by a judge.

  2. Pam says:

    I am the Primary Conservator, and what if the Possession Conservator Moves out the geographical area can the primary conservator move also

    • royreeves says:

      Always look at your decree or custody orders first – your orders may not be standard and if there is a question set an appointment to let us look.

      Generally speaking, the most common language used will state “for so long as the other conservator resides within this same geographical area” or some similar words. Assuming that your decree/orders use the standard language, the answer is a qualified “yes”. I say qualified because you must move while the other parent is absent and if the other parent only moved a few miles and just happened to cross a county line in the process, beware the Court will not be amused and will likely order you to return after you move if the other parent ask.

  3. Audrey says:

    Does county restrictions include boarding school in another county?

    • royreeves says:

      It really depends. If your children are potentially going to attend a boarding school it is likely that issue is addressed in the educational section of the conservators rights and duties. Your decree/orders control your case so without seeing the language used, it is impossible to say for certain.

  4. Raquel says:

    If you want to move due to a better job opportunity. Is there a way to get the restriction off? the Non-custodial parent has had CPS call twice in the past 5 years, but nothing was done.

    • royreeves says:

      Geographic restrictions are there to protect the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent and that is the important concept to remember if you want a geographic restriction lifted. The restriction may lift by operation of law (you have to read your decree/order to determine if this is the case). If the restriction does not lift by operation of law (a loophole) then you either need the other parent’s agreement or the Judge’s permission. To get the Judge’s permission you have to file a request and show the Judge the benefit to the child by allowing the move outweighs the damage the move will cause to the relationship with the non-custodial parent.

  5. Krystal Smith says:

    What about full-time RV living? Is there a minimum requirement for days per year that we must spend within the county limit to still meet the residency restrictions if all other obligation are upheld? (I am the CP and I plan to homeschool. I feel that this flexible lifestyle will add to my son’s learning experiences, providing more hands-on, ‘real world’ knowledge and skills. We are currently “house poor” and stuck financially. It’s stressful and overwhelming and not providing the most nurturing environment at the moment.)

    • royreeves says:

      This is a unique and difficult to answer question. The answer will likely be very fact dependent and there is no simple answer. Your judge and your travel plans will be determinative. Technically speaking, full-time RV living could be interpreted as “no residence” or as a “indefinite residence” neither of which is a residence in the county. If you are in the County at a specific location that ensures the other party always has a place to find and pick-up the child for visitation that will also be a factor.

  6. Kat says:

    My orders say, (not verbatim) ‘at the time Kat wishes to move outside of tattant or contiguous counties, M doesn’t not live in tarrant or contiguous counties. ‘
    And he doesn’t. There is about 2 counties separating us from each other geographically. Is this my loop hole?
    I’m asking because my family moved out of state and my husband and I are wanting to move to an area inbetween them and my daughters father. My husband has found police jobs hiring in the areas we want to live. We would have a better quality if life, financially and socially. And I would be willing to meet him half way on his weekends so he chooses to keep agreement already in place. I’m not trying to deprive him of rights. Just trying to make a better life for my children.

    • royreeves says:

      Based on the question and facts you present, yes you are inside the loop hole as you call it. Beware, father can and may file a Motion to modify the geographic restriction though. As stated on this website multiple times, a geographic restriction is there to protect the child’s relationship with the other parent.

  7. Leslie says:

    What if the CP marries an active duty military member? There has never been a restriction until the judge imposed one at temp orders. Can the judge impose a permanent restriction and break up an established family? CPS has also been involved.

    • royreeves says:

      A geographic restriction is there to protect the child’s relationship with the other parent. Look at it from the Judge’s perspective, he or she is required by law to protect the relationship between a child and the child’s parents (both of them). The affect the restriction will have on your new relationships is not relevant. It sounds cruel, but the law cannot foresee every circumstance and that is why the Judge gets involved. To move, you have to show that the benefit the child will receive from the move outweighs the injury the child will suffer from a degraded relationship with the other parent. Distance, cost of travel, etc. are taken into account, as well as schools, opportunities, resources, extended family, purpose of the move, and most importantly, the quality of the relationship that will be injured.

  8. Lisa says:

    Divorced in 2012, JMC – I have primary to determine domicile without geographical restriction. I am getting married and plan on moving. Can my ex now request a restriction?

    • royreeves says:

      Yes, he can ask. That does not mean it will be granted, but he can always ask. The thing to remember on either side of this issue is that the geographic restriction is there to protect the child’s relationship with the other parent, so if he has a good relationship with the child and exercises visitation regularly it is easier for him to get a Judge to grant a requested restriction or on the opposite side, it is hard to get a restriction lifted. However, if the non-primary parent has little or no communication with the child, does not regularly visit and the relationship is tenuous, then there is nothing to protect and the restriction is harder to get or easier to lift – depending on your position.

  9. Kay says:

    In a case where both Primary and Possessory Conservators are re-married (former for 1 year, latter for 7 years), child is in high school, geo restriction in place, Possessory Conservator has not moved and family is well rooted in this area (jobs, social network, etc), Primary Conservator’s husband cannot find work in the state of Texas and just took a job in the Northeastern US. Should Possessory Conservator be concerned that Primary Conservator might be allowed to move to follow her husband, and take the child?

    • royreeves says:

      The geographic restriction is there to protect the relationship between the Non-Custodial parent and the child. You put in a lot of detail that is relevant to a custody determination but did not specifically address the relationship that may be affected by a move. That said, with the facts you present, I would have no worry if I were the non-custodial parent. And if the other parent tried to move, I would run to the Courthouse for a modification based on the move. Plus, with rare exception a teen (who can express desire with whom to live) will not want to leave high school friends.

  10. Sam says:

    My husband and I just recently got married (he is military). He was stationed somewhere else while we were engaged. We informed my child’s dad of the situation and agreed to try and come up with an agreement. Our child who is a teenager has expressed that he wants to move with us to his dad and now his dad wants to fight us on this. What are the chances that the restriction will be lifted?

    • royreeves says:

      The question that the court must decide is how will lifting the restriction affect the relation ship between child and father and will the benefit to the child resulting from the move you want to make outweigh that relationship. How this affects you, your family, your new husband, your respective careers, etc. is not the question. It is how this affects your son and your son’s relationship with his father. BTW: read my article on Parental Alienation (http://www.planoattorney.net/blog/parental-alienation-and-fathers-rights-2016-02-557). The absolute worst thing you can to is to attempt to interfere with or degrade the relationship to tip the balance in your favor.

      Parental alienation is any act that results in a negative change to the relationship of a parent and child. It is not used this way but it can be an act of the parent in question – i.e. you can alienate yourself from your child. Usually, if self-alienation is occurring the parent in question is not fighting for custody. The law and the courts care most when the alienation is effected by the other parent in the form of psychological manipulation or actual denial of physical possession.

  11. Tida says:

    If the NCP does not live within the limits of the geographical restriction and did not live there at the time of the orders (the restriction was automatic), would I have a good case as CP to have the restriction lifted?

    • royreeves says:

      Read your orders. Do they say the restriction is lifted if at the time you want to move the other parent does not live inside the geographic area? That is the standard language. It does not matter where the other party lived when the order was issued, it is where the other party lives when you want to move. Then it is a matter of how the move will effect the relationship.

  12. Cassidy guth says:

    Can I get out of my geographical restriction if I’ve already moved and have been living where I moved for 8 months with the kids and their fathers knowledge of he lives in another state?

    • royreeves says:

      It sounds to me as if you have gotten out of it. You moved and Dad did not file anything? If so, you have consent by silence – at least that would be my argument in Court. But if he filed something and you are asking if you can say “but I already moved” as support for lifting the restriction, the answer is NO. You cannot violate orders of the court and use the illegal act as evidence that you should be allowed to do the illegal act.

  13. Jacob Barnes says:

    My soon to be fiancée has a controlling ex who scared her into agreeing to 15 mile restriction from his current work (her former work) in downtown dallas. I live in McKinney and have 2 children of my own. She lived near downtown, but decided to move because of several reasons (better school, safer area, halfway between myself and her ex, less sex offenders in the area by a huge margin, her ex is a narcissistic physician who constantly has to give up time because his visitation falls on his “on call” work weekends, so my fiancée has to pick up her daughter from him at completely random times and has to drop her daughter back off with him within 30 min of him getting off work, but he chooses to change those times based on how he feels those days, so my fiancée cannot plan anything since she is being treated like a puppet.

    Anyways, she moved 15.6 miles away from the point established in the order (his current work), so he filed an enforcement against my fiancée and also filed for modification of orders as well as temporary custody hearing.

    Today the judge ruled she was in violation, but not significant enough to make her move back. However, the judge ruled my fiancée has to pay her ex $3500 because of her ruling. He makes 210k per year and she makes 70k per year. So far she has spent more on litigation for this than he pays her for child support annually.

    My fiancée is seriously the nicest, honest and good hearted person, but she is being taken advantage of by the controlling language he talked her into having in their order. She really needs help getting her custody order modified to change geographic restrictions to a different central point AND also needs to get the possession schedule changed so she isn’t catering to his on call schedule the way she has been. Oh and her ex does NOT do ANY of the driving for pickups or drop offs. PLEASE HELP!!!

    Jacob
    214-335-9801

    • royreeves says:

      Jacob:

      This is one of those cases that I can say is a travesty of justice. It sounds to me, and I am almost willing to bet, your fiancé went to court without a lawyer the first time, or at least she hired someone with little or no family law experience. Otherwise she made a bad agreement on the wrong assumption she could just change it later. I further suspect she did the same thing a second time. How much money Dad makes is not a factor. Did she violate the order? Yes. Could she have gotten an expansion if she had asked before she moved – very likely with the facts you give, in fact, your fact pattern supports the statement I always make that every case is unique.

      Without the cause number of names I cannot look up the case so I am limited to the information you provided. If Dad filed an “enforcement” that is not a modification. So, time lines are not changed form the prior orders – which need to be reviewed because they are either draconian in form or your fiancé is being used. She needs to set an appointment and bing her current orders. We can look them over, see if she is merely being used by this guy or did she agree to something that has to be changed. Then we can evaluate the “change in circumstances” to ascertain if the timing is right. From there, we can put a plan together to “fix” the orders.

  14. Nina DiSantis says:

    My ex (visitation every other weekend) and I (sole physical, shared legal custody holder) used to live within the 100 mile restriction set in the divorce decree (which he requested). Now he up and moved (from VA to Montana) because things didn’t work out with his girlfriend and he was offered a job there. I have no plans on moving at this moment but want to get rid of the restriction in case I want to relocate in the future. Is that a possibility? If so, how do I go about that?

    • royreeves says:

      You need to discuss this question with a lawyer who is familiar with VA case law. Custody, Divorce, and other family law related matters are reserved to the States, so there is no “Federal” rule on this. There is what we call the Uniformed Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) but it is not really a law in itself, it is more like a treaty between states. That said, in Texas, you cannot lift the restriction prospectively since you do not plan to move, you are asking for relief that you “may or may not” want or use in the future. You are deemed to be asking the court for an advisory opinion, which is not permitted in Texas. In fact, it is not permitted in the Federal Courts and therefore, I assume but do not know for certain, that is is not permitted VA.

  15. On our temporary order the judge put down a geographic restriction my ex sees our 6 year old he found another woman and left us when I was 8 months pregnant our daughter is now almost six months old and he has no relationship with her he never takes her he only sees her when he picks up our 6 year old I have no family here I moved here to be with him we’ve been together for seven years and I want to move closer to either my mom or my dad so that I have some support and help with the girls what can I say when we go to court in October so the judge will understand that I need I need to be able to move with the girls and he can still have access and video chat with them but he doesn’t even want anything to do with the baby

    • royreeves says:

      It would be impossible for me to tell you what to say. Do you have a lawyer helping you? If so, your lawyer will guide you through this process. If you do not have a lawyer does the other side? If you show up for a proverbial gun fight armed with a knife, there is probably nothing you can say because the other side will object and restrict your evidence and keep you from making any valid points. I can tell you that the fact that he left and found another woman is NOT relevant to the geographic restriction. It is relevant to you, it is relevant to the divorce, it is a lot of things, but it is not evidence of the relationship between the parent and the child as it exist now or how it will exist in the future.

      I can also tell you that you will never win points with “I want to move to be closer to my family.” Any family law attorney with any experience will immediately ask you if you think the child’s relationship with extended family members is more important than a strong parent-child bond. And if you answer with anything that points to your need to be with family, the follow-up question will ask if you think your personal relationships are more important that the parent-child bond. As you can see, not good questions for you.

      The ONLY question for the court in a geographic restriction issue is “How will the restriction affect the relationship between the non-custodial parent and the child.” In your particular scenario – I would note you ask about a restriction and discuss no bond between Dad and one child and glaze over the relationship between Dad and the older child. The restriction applies to all children equally but in a case like this, the Judge can and likely will base the restriction on the strongest bond/relationship.

  16. Amy says:

    I’m the custodial parent. Planning on getting married and moving into fiances home in the next county. (10 mins/Miles) from current address. Spoke face to face with my ex to discuss the potential move and offered closer meeting place for his benefit as well as extra (currently UNALLOCATED) Time/weekends/holidays with the kids to facilitate and continue both parents remain active participants in the kids lives. The move is just across town and we remain less than 100 miles apart. I tried having him sign a paper where we could agree outside of court. He refused everything. Im making every effort to mitigate ANY potential negative effect of the move for him and his relationship with the kids. Meanwhile, he has had NO job for the past year and a half, he’s $10,868 behind in child support, and has not attended one school function (despite no obligation to a job) and yet he refuses all my offers and declines to consent to the move.
    Im planning to be Moving from an apartment that my 2 (opposite sex children have to share a bedroom who are already approaching puberty) into a 4 bedroom home where the kids can have their own rooms for privacy.
    Do I stand a chance in court of moving?

    • royreeves says:

      Did you read your current custody papers? A move 10 miles is not very far. Most restrictions are to a county plus counties contiguous thereto. It is hard to envision a case where moving only 10 miles violates the order, but anything is possible, depending on what restriction you agreed to or the Court placed at the time.

  17. Christie says:

    My ex-husband and I have 50/50 custody and we have geographical restrictions. I agreed to the restrictions during the divorce to help end the fighting. In the past two years, my ex has been dating someone from New Mexico and is now engaged to her. He spends most of his time in New Mexico now. He keeps his house here just so the geo restrictions can apply (a way to control me from moving). Considering that I have the children 90% of the time while he stays in New Mexico, would modifying our order be an easy thing to do? I am now remarried and all of our family lives in another city (same state) and my husband would have more job opportunities if we had the option to look. My ex is also unemployed and does not pay child support even though I have the children 90% of the time within the last year. Any advice would be helpful.

    • royreeves says:

      Geographic restrictions are designed to protect the relationship between the Non-Custodial parent and the child(ren). To move or break a geographic restriction requires either consent by the NCP (which you have indicated is not going to happen) or permission from the Court. A Court gives the permission if the benefit to the child resulting from the move outweighs the detriment to the relationship being protected. That means better job opportunities for your new husband is only one small factor – more money = more resources = better opportunities for the child; but as you can see, that is three times removed. Your case and every custody case is unique, based solely on what you posted here, I would suggest a modification and enforcement action, but that is dependent itself on facts – if Dad is ordered to pay child support based on an income of $50K, and he is unemployed, you may be better letting the support add up at the higher rate and tag him later, but if he is paying child support based on $20K and the support amount for an unemployed will be based on minimum wage (~$14K) you risk little in the way of changing support amount and stand to gain a lot. Simply put, there is a risk/reward analysis you need to perform.

  18. Mary says:

    I do not have a custody agreement. Father is in child’s life but has never paid any type of child support due to no legal custody agreement. Can I move to another county under 100 miles? Can a geographic restriction be placed on me by the father even though we don’t have an agreement?

    • royreeves says:

      If there is no order, then there is no restriction. What a Judge will do at a hearing later is very fact dependent and would probably hinge on how fast the father reacts to your move. I cannot say for certain but I would venture to say that if dad waits 6 months or more, dad’s best day is a geographic restriction that prevents you moving farther away (i.e if you are under 100 miles but not in the county or a contiguous county, you may get restricted to 100 miles or you may not get restricted at all, but the chances of an order to return to the county is slim. However, if dad acts quickly, his chances of getting you ordered to return or a limitation on residence is much better.

  19. Victoria says:

    My orders said not to leave harris county or surrounding contiguous counties but the non custodial parent quit paying child support 2 years before i decided to tale a job with better opportunity out of state to this day he still hasnt paid a dume in support but im afraid to ask cause i wasnt supposed to leave but without it i was drowning and could no longer affod to stay. Its been 8 years and still no support but i dont want to ask for fear they will make me return. He has never even attemted to see my child unless i foot the bill to get her there. Could i ask for help witbout getting in trouble

    • royreeves says:

      File for support enforcement, move the case to your location, and don’t worry. You have fallen into a scenario that is not uncommon, you moved and he did not complain so his silence became consent. FOR ANYONE ELSE READING THIS, IT IS NOT ADVICE TO JUST MOVE. MOVING WITHOUT CONSENT IN ADANCE IS A RISK THAT COULD RESULT IN YOUR LOSS OF CUSTODY.

      Sorry about that, but it needed to be said. Since you did move and you did not get challenged and it has been a long time (by any measure, 8 years is a long time) the delay by dad in filing an enforcement is proof in itself that either there was a minimal relationship or at the least the move did not hinder the relationship. So, his silence is either “consent” or proof you need to get the restriction lifted in the first place.

      For others that may read this there are two lessons: (1) if you are the non-custodial parent, delay will cost you dearly; but (2) for the custodial parent that wants to risk it – risk has a high price. I recently handled a case where CP moved without permission and the Judge told CP that she could move back or not, her choice but Dad would have custody until she decides. She risked it all and lost.

  20. Alex says:

    If my son’s father has been found guilty of abusing his stepson, and has been “UNABLE TO DETERMINE” abuse on my child, doesn’t keep up with child support, and after the judge ruling a physcosocial & psychiatric evaluation – both claiming I have PTSD and suffered severe abuse, could that be enough to lift the restriction? About to go to court in a couple of weeks for our final hearing.

    • royreeves says:

      These are good facts for a custody determination but a custody determination and a geographic restriction are two different issues with two different purposes. Whether or not dad pays support is not a controlling factor in determining if a geographic restriction should be lifted or remain. The purpose of a geographic restriction is to protect and promote a relationship between the child and the parent not establishing residence of the child. Child support is not really a factor in that relationship, thought it could be argued that the lack of support is similar to the job opportunities and resources available for the child. Note, I said it “could be argued” that alone is not very likely to win the day. An “Unable to Determine” finding by CPS is of little value to either side, it certainly will not help you lift a restriction. That said, the Judge ordered Psych evals? You do not mention what the doctor said. Again, more good facts for custody, not so helpful for lifting a geographic restriction, but the “totality of the circumstances” may be enough.

  21. Alexandria says:

    I will be leaving for the airforce and my childs father has never been active in her life.His current wife threaten to kill me if i pursued more child support. What can i do to get a jurisdiction lift? This oppurtunity will allow my daughter to access a free college education and better healthcare.

    • royreeves says:

      Geographic restrictions serve a purpose so the short answer to your question is to file a request with the court and show the purpose is frustrated, or the benefit to the child outweighs the purpose. Every case is unique so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to lifting a geographic restriction. You need to find a lawyer in the jurisdiction where the case will be heard to give you more specific guidance after getting your particular details. That said, I always suggest any change to your orders start with you reading your orders. It is rare, but I have seen clients that wanted something they already had and they did not know because they did not read their own orders. By way of example that may apply here, most geographic restrictions state that the restriction is lifted if at the time the conservator with the right to establish domicile desires to move, the other conservator does not live inside the geographic defined area. In that case, if you are restricted to Bexar County and you are leaving the Air Force, and the other parent does not live in Bexar County, you can move. But, beware – if the other conservator lives in Kendall County (just one over) he/she can file a motion to “expand the geographic restriction to include contiguous counties” and keep you in the area. This is an extreme example since most restrictions already cover contiguous counties but you get the idea.

  22. Ruben says:

    My ex wife has primary custody with a geo restriction of the United States. Can I alter the restriction if I feel that she is moving too far away to see my son?

    • royreeves says:

      The restriction is to “the United States”? I have seen this broad a restriction only a couple times, usually when there is a military parent and the other has strong connections to another country. Though I have seen it where one parent was a professional pilot and travel to visit was pretty much unrestricted but that was also by agreement.

      Okay, can you modify a geographic restriction? Yes. Your request to modify is no different than a parent who wants to modify to lift a restriction, except a more narrow restriction is deemed beneficial to the child so your have a very low burden. The question you have to ask is if the cost is worth the effort? If you are confident she is thinking of moving, there is one cost benefit analysis, but if you are only wanting to be proactive because you can, that is a different cost benefit analysis. However, if you want to change visitation, ask for a change in conservatorship, increase or decrease child support, etc., the cost benefit is placed on those items and ask for a modification of the geographic restriction as part of the suit since the additional cost would be all of 10-20 minutes in court (unless someone asks for a jury, all bets are off on cost when a jury is involved and geographic restrictions are submitted to a jury if either side asks.)

  23. Michael says:

    My Wife and I have had shared custody of our son, i have him Sat,Sun,Mon and every other tuesday. I would pick him up on my weekdays after work and drop him off in the mornings for school. Her home was flooded in Hurricane Harvey and she got a house outside the county 30 miles away from me. We have a residency restriction in our divorce decree to stay in Harris County. I have never missed a day of my visitation, but now its too far to get him on my weekdays. Can I make her move back to Harris County?

    • Michael says:

      She has always wanted to move to this county but couldnt due to the restricion, I feel she will use the Hurricane as an excuse to take up permanent residency in this county. She has told me that she is going to

      • royreeves says:

        Document everything. Natural disasters can and will change things but since you mention hurricane, I presume you are in Harris County and your case is there. If she moves, find an attorney in your area to file a Motion to Modify seeking custody. Your ex can move, the child cannot and your ex does not get the unilateral power to decide, particularly if the court has already spoken on the matter.

    • royreeves says:

      I am certain we are going to see a lot of these problems arise. Your scenario as you describe it is a little different than others. First, read your orders carefully – does it say restriction is to “Harris County” or does it say the restriction is to “Harris County and counties contiguous to Harris County”. There is a big difference. Typically, we use the count of residence at time of the orders and counties that are contiguous thereto but every restriction is different. They are set based on facts, agreements, and necessity. Will a Judge loosen the restriction since it is “only 30 miles”? That is going to depend on your particular facts and the Judge. If she moved 30 miles away but that 30 miles causes you a 1.5 hour drive, your in a different situation than someone who moved 30 miles away but the drive only changed by 5-10 minutes.

  24. Ledezma says:

    I have joint legal custody with my ex who us active duty military. He has a “so-so” relationship with his two boys who are now 10 and 12 both about to have birthdays. In 2013 we moved to my home state when he chose ordered to over seas for 4 years. During that 4 years he has only seen the kids a month and maybe a week combined. He has been to Texas for periods of 30-60 days each year. His communication is minimal despite having Facebook, emails, he purchased a phone for them, and other social media.

    Now my custody papers have a geographical restriction In place. The county mentioned in the decree is different than the “home” address on file with the military and prior to his new orders over seas he left the county to a 3rd county not mentioned in his military record or the decree.
    He has since changed duty stations again and is now remarried and stationed in Hawaii.
    My question is this: With the above information could I possiHop Hope to have the restrictions removed and granted a change of venue from Texas to Arkansas. ???

    • royreeves says:

      Read your orders carefully. Do they state the child’s residence is restricted until a Judge says otherwise unless the parties agree, or do they state that “if at the time [Custodial Parent] desires to move the [non-cusotidal parent] does not reside in the designated area . . .”? The latter is common but not always present. The purpose of the second part is an automatic escape clause during the time he was overseas.

  25. Michael says:

    It reads: IT IS
    ORDERED that the primary residence of the child shall be Harris County, and the parties shall not
    remove the child from Harris County for the purpose of changing the primary residence of the
    child until modified by further order of the court

    Because I work in Houston, 30 miles the other way, i will not be able to pick up my son on the weekdays, it would be an extra hour after work and one hour in the morning to take him to his new school. We have had this arrangement for the last 4 years and I have never missed a day

    • royreeves says:

      Based on that reading, she is in violation. The hurricane is an intervening factor that she can argue gives her an excuse but she is still in violation. You should find a local attorney, document everything, send her a written notice (e-mail, text or letter, just keep a copy and any response as proof she actually got it) telling her that you do not agree to her relocation and ask (nicely, it may be read out loud in court later) her to move back to Harris County or you will assume the duties of the primary conservator.

      The most important part of that is document and find local counsel. She may voluntarily move back, but I would not bet on it.

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