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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176 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.

      • candace says:

        What do you mean by “operation of law” and how do we find it if that is the case?

        • royreeves says:

          My apologies, when I use the term “by operation of law” I am referring to terms that may be included in your decree. The decree may have a determinate date, or a condition precedent that if met, relieves you of the restriction. There is not a “law” in the traditional sense so it is not something that you look up in the law books, it is a provision in your decree you are looking for and you must read it carefully and it must apply at the time you want to use it.

  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 (https://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.

  26. JUSTINE says:

    What are the chances of a me getting resistricion lifted, with joint custody?

    • royreeves says:

      This is a very common question and nearly impossible to answer without details and facts specific to you and your children. As I have stated many times, the purpose of the geographic restriction should be the focus of your inquiry. Do you have sufficient cause to move that when weighed against the purpose of the restriction, the Court can say lifting the restriction is best for the children. Another way to think of it is this: The first concern of the court is the children’s best interest and if the issue is a geographic restriction the parent who is NOT the primary parent gets his or her needs met second and you come in a distant third. That may not sound fair, but this is how the purpose of the rule is satisfied. To lift the restriction you have to first show how it benefits the kids, then show that benefit outweighs the relationship with the other parent. The Court cannot consider how the move affects you personally, that is your choice, you are free to hand the kids to the other parent and move at will, so “I want to move”, “I have a job opportunity”, or “I want _____” will not be considered.

  27. Denice says:

    My daughter is 17 and has not spoke or talked to her father over a year due to being angry and upset with him for a lot of reasons. Me and my kids are wanting to move to Chicago due to family being there for support and also I have been offered and job and a home by family to help out. My daughter is home schooled and will be 18 in 9 months. What are the chances of us going to get the geographic restriction lifted? My sons are 22 and have a relationship with their dad just not my daughter.

    • royreeves says:

      It is impossible for me to give you “odds” or the “chances” on what a Judge will rule with so few facts. I also do not know “why” the relationship between dad and daughter is strained, or what the father’s reaction will be if you simply tell him your goal and reasoning. Would you give up child support and allow him to use that money for airline tickets? If so, then you are in a position to negotiate. If, however, you are thinking your needs/desires and your daughter’s strained relationship with her dad is enough to survive a court battle I would caution you to seek a one on one appointment with counsel to discuss the details that you cannot put in a public forum like this before proceeding. The one caveat to that last statement is to simply ask the father.

  28. Avery says:

    My daughter and I live in Harris County and her father lives in Bexar County. We went to mediation earlier this year and in our agreement it says that my daughter and I are required to move to Bexar/contiguous counties by mid November. Circumstances have drastically changed since this agreement was made and most of the agreement is not practical for us anymore including the residency restriction. My daughter’s dad is willing to modify other things in the order but not the residency restriction even though the visitation schedule would not be altered and I have made great efforts to keep my daughter’s relationship with him strong. I am not wanting to completely get rid of the restriction, I am only wanting to add Harris County to the area we are restricted to. The reasons are that we are established here, I have a very good job and great benefits here, we have family here and deep ties to the community we are in. We have none of that in Bexar County and despite my efforts her father is only minimally involved, he cancels most of his visitations and does many other things to show he is not interested in pursuing a relationship with her but rather just wants to have control over my daughter and I. There is a lot more to the story of course but I’m hoping you can help me figure out what steps to take now. I have verbal consent recorded to remove the residency restriction by him but in writing he says the opposite. I assume without his written agreement to modify I will have to take this to trial.

    • royreeves says:

      You probably have to go to court, but it really depends – when you went to “mediation” was there a case pending, or was it an informal event? Was there an agreement signed? Was the agreement filed with the court and approved by the Judge? If all the above are “yes” then you have to go to court. If there is at least one “no” you MAY have an alternative but it is really fact dependent and you should consult with a lawyer in your area. As for the verbal agreement – written and signed is always more valuable from an evidence standard than verbal. Also, anything said or discussed in terms of “negotiation” or “settlement” is not admissible. Accordingly, his verbal agreement that is negated by a written statement is of no value in court.

  29. You noted on August 29, 2017 at 2:53 pm that a CP that neglected to request permission for a case you handled ended up losing custody. Can you please share the case. My boyfriend is NCP and is about to go to court with this exact scenario. He is requesting geo restriction and emergency custody. The CP left one child with non-relatives in our county and moved the other 2 children without permission 175 miles. We are seeking restriction and emergency custody until she returns.

    • royreeves says:

      The case in question is in District Court, it is not published so the case has no “authority” to help your case. By the way, a parent has superior rights to a non-parent so leaving the child in possession of another, not the parent, is good for your case. It is impossible for me to assess your case with so few facts but I assure you, many a lawyer has proceeded to court with fewer good facts than those you have presented here. Where will the case be heard? If you are in Collin, Dallas, or Denton County, please give me a call.

  30. Joseph says:

    Good Afternoon!! I’m the custodian parent /home parent and my daughter and I reside in Houston Tx where her mother resides in Dallas ,Tx ..I’m pursing my career in law enforcement in Austin Tx and I wanted to move in the summer of next year . The decree says Harris counties and surrounding areas as well as Dallas Tx and surrounding areas , would I have to go to court and get it changed ?

    • royreeves says:

      Yes, as you have stated the decree has a limitation to two areas and you want to move to an area outside those two (even though I believe Austin is closer to Dallas) you have to either get a written agreement from the other parent or go to court for the change. Typically, you have to show the move will benefit the child and that the benefit will enjoy based on the move outweighs the detriment to the relationship that will be caused by the move. However, a move that has little or no effect on the relationship between the child and the other parent need only show some benefit to the child and a new career with benefits, etc is a benefit to the child. Keep in mind, a benefit to the child does not have to benefit ONLY the child. My suggestion, do the milage math, get the other side to agree without court but get it in writing, signed and notarized. (The parties expressly understand the order dated ____ states _____________. At this time, and for the purposes and agreements set out herein, the parents agree to expand the geographic restriction to include Travis County (or – “to include all that geographic area between Dallas County and Harris County including ares adjacent thereto provided the residence of the child is not established more than ______ miles from ___________________.) Put the other parent’s CURRENT address in the last blank. Get it signed and notarized and put it in a safe location – or better yet, file it with the papers of the Court. You may have to pay a filing fee (est. $75) but that is cheap compared to a contempt motion or enforcement action.

  31. Jenna says:

    Child support is going on 4 years. Mom is custodial parent. Father behind on child support by 5 months, has no contact with child in over 1 year, has no wish to be in the childs life. Mom wants to lift geographical restrictions, father only will agree if child support is dropped. Is this possible? He wants nothing to do with the child.

    Thank you in advance!

    • royreeves says:

      Yes, it is possible under these circumstances. There are a couple ways to accomplish the task at hand. The best (most clean and looks good on paper to the Judge) is to file a Motion to Modify naming Mom as the Sole Managing Conservator, list all rights to her but keep the duties bilaterally.

  32. LoraMarie says:

    What if a geographical restriction was placed, and the non custodial parent did not take advantage of even half of the days they were rewarded? My husband and I are living under a geographical restriction and his ex is awarded half of the time. She has the resources to move (with a pay cut, but also lower cost of living). She has only taken advantage of 6 out of 15 days per month of visitation at most, and consistently. Could this be cause to take her back to court?

    • royreeves says:

      You can go back to court and ask for a change of the geographic restriction but based solely on the information you gave – I would not hold out a lot of hope. Just because she can move and can find a job does not give you reason lift the restriction. You are literally asking that your needs/desires be forced on the other side. The question the Court must answer is what effect, if any, will the move have on the relationship between the child and the non-cusotial parent. The Court does not care that the NCP can move and prevent any harm, the analysis is done assuming the NCP does not move.

  33. Moving Closer says:

    I’m CP, recently engaged and offered a new job in Atlanta, GA. My current order has a geographic restriction limiting me to Portland, OR and the entire state of Texas. The NCP will not agree to a move to Atlanta without me “giving him what he wants” (I.E. school year possession). I’ve explained to him the biggest benefit is our child would live closer to him (Austin, TX). Less travel times and have offered more time during summer. He currently gets to see her 1st weekend of every month, because I have to fly with her to Austin. Yet, on the other weekend(s) he can fly to Portland- he’s not come once. What is your opinion on gaining permission from the Judge to allow myself CP/JMC to relocate with our daughter to Atlanta.

    • royreeves says:

      It is virtually impossible for me to give you “odds” or the percentage of chance you will win or loose a particular issue in court. I am aware everyone wants to know the chances and I do nor remember a time when a client did not ask some form of “What are my chances?” in a case. The issue you have is two parts: (1) the father has power over you right now, like it or not – can you show the court this is just a “control” issue? If so, that would certainly be beneficial to your goals; and (2) can you show the court that the move to Atlanta benefits the child and almost if not more important that it will improve or at least provide more opportunity for Dad to see the child? Again, showing this will definitely benefit your goals.

      While I cannot give you “odds” or even assess the chances – this is a very fact dependent inquiry, and one of those facts is the Judge whom I do not know – I do like your fact pattern and I can see several ways to present the issues all of which are favorable to you. But as I said, it is VERY FACT DEPENDENT. Will the father show up in court? Will he fight if you file and ask the Judge? If he fights, what will he say? How long have you been in Oregon? What is the reason the Court granted (or Dad agreed) to the existing restriction limitation? How long have you known the finance and is the move for you or for your new spouse to be? What about schools on each end? Does the child have special needs, medical concerns, etc.? Is there extended family or connections in Oregon that benefit the child – or justify Dad’s travel there even if he never does it?

      These are just a few of the questions that come to mind that may or may not be important to the final determination of the issue. These are things the Judge will need to know and I have told many a person, Judges are supposed to be neutral and unbiased, but they are human and come to work with certain beliefs, or pre-concienved notions and experiences. All of those things will affect the final outcome but no where near as much as the particular facts, details and arguments the other side makes when in Court.

  34. jennifer says:

    Stressed to the max here.. I am a CP of a “dead beat” ncp.. he owes over 70 ,000 in back support.. not including medical support. Ncp has supervised visitation with CP mother. Ncp has not shown in five years. Has had no contact with either child in two years at least. I am trying to get my restrictions lifted..I am stuck in Texas.. my whole family is moving three states away.. where do I start!!!!. I need help. I don’t even know how to get ahold of ncp. It’s a better life if we leave.. btw oldest child is special needs. He will be with me for life. Ncp will not sign over rights. Have already tried. Please any advice will help.. thank you

    • royreeves says:

      Jennifer:

      Where is your case pending? Do you have an actual case pending or just a Court of continuing exclusive jurisdiction? If this is pending in Collin County, Dallas County, or Denton County, I need you to call me. The suggestion I would make to you based on the fact pattern you present is not something I want to post in an open forum. It is not wrong, immoral or inappropriate in any way, it is just that your facts as you present them are such that I may (need to know you are in an area where I can bet on the judge’s reaction) have a recommendation that I would not normally give and I don’t want other’s reading this doing the same thing. I know the is a bit cryptic, but you really need a face to face discussion with a lawyer who knows the Judge where you live and it is well worth the cost of an hour of the lawyer’s time.

      • jennifer says:

        Sorry I just now saw that you responded to my post thing I will call your office and leave a message and let you know that I am the Jennifer from The Forum thank you and by the way I live in Dallas County and the case is in Kaufman.

  35. SAMANTHA says:

    I have an upcoming court date after almost five years. The NCP has never been denied access to our child and has been told on multiple occasions that he should try to get involved in her life. He now seeks to impose geographic restrictions when we go to court limiting me from moving more than 50 miles outside of Bexar county. He has only made effort to see her once a year and hasn’t attempted to communicate with her on a consistent basis, I can prove this going back to her birth. What is the likelihood that the judge would grant the restrictions, and would it help if I can show he has traveled within the time he failed to build a healthy parent child relationship for entertainment purposes and not for work

    • royreeves says:

      Samantha,

      It is impossible for me to tell you what a Bexar County Judge will do in this case. However, the answer to your final question in the fact pattern is an absolute “yes”. Will showing he has not taken advantage or tried to develop a strong parent-child relationship be enough? I don’t know but I do know it will not hurt your position and can only help. So, if you have that evidence, gather it and give it to your attorney.

  36. Kat says:

    Hi

    My partner currently resides in Texas. He is going through a divorce at present. He and his wife are both New Zealanders by birth. He is applying for US citizenship and has a couple of years left. During the court case, is it likely that he will have geographic restrictions applied, he will be primary custodian, but he wants to return to NZ. He will maintain his duties as an american citizen by way of assets owned in america. Just want to know if the geographic restrictions will apply if he was born in NZ and so were all of his children.

    Also, she has travelled extensively through the last two years only being in the childrens daily life a couple of weeks at a time, for a maximum of 27 days last year. She travelled out of country for 75% of the year. We believe the geographic restriction cannot be enforced due to her not residing in Texas for longer than six months in the last year and a half. Please advise.

    • royreeves says:

      Citizenship and where the children were born is a minor factor at best in a geographic restriction issue. The purpose of a geographic restriction is not to punish or limit opportunities of the custodial parent, it is there to protect and promote the relationship between the non-custodial parent and the child(ren). The nature of the relationship that needs protecting and the affect (if any) of a custodial parent’s move on that relationship are the determinative factors. Accordingly, your fact pattern – that Mom travels extensively and has a tenuous relationship with the kids – would favor the father. Note, I said “favor”. All things in a custody fight are fluid and the Court has to consider all the evidence presented even when one side says that they have future plans that will promote or affect the parent-child relationship.

      If your partner is going through a divorce, I hope he has a lawyer. If not, have him call me if the case will be heard in Collin, Dallas, or Denton County. Otherwise, he does need aggressive legal representation and I always recommend someone local to the courthouse where the case will be heard. It cost less because the lawyer does not have to travel and he/she knows the local rules and politics.

  37. David says:

    Currently my wifes decree states that she has no geographical restrictions. Her sons father planned on moving to colorado when they started their custody agreement in court. Right now her parents are looking for property in Waco Tx and plan on starting a ranch. My wife has planned to move up there and help.
    Her sons father heard about the move and has told her that she is not allowed. They have court in a month from now.
    She wants to go ahead and move up there to beat any changes that may be made to the decree previnting him from placing a geographical restriction.

    Do you think the court will ask her to move back?

    • royreeves says:

      First I cannot not begin to guess what the Court will do. Local politics and the Judge’s personal opinions are not supposed to impact court cases, but to assume they have no effect on what a Judge will or will not do is naive. Second, you state “they have court in a month” which tells me there is a court case pending. The County may or may not have “Standing Orders” which are prescribed set of rules that apply as soon as the case is filed unless a party files a timely objection to them. Collin, Dallas, and Denton counties all have Standing Orders that specifically state no one will attempt to move or relocate the children during the pendency of the proceedings without the Court’s approval, your county may have different rules but most Standing Orders in Family Law cases are similar. Accordingly, if your wife is served with a Petition and there is a standing order prohibiting her moving and she does so anyway – plan on a Judge not taking to kindly to the contemptuous act. Assuming there are no Standing Orders, moving “to beat any changes” is not a good answer when the Judge asks “shy did you do it”.

      This is NOT a do-it-yourself issue. If your wife wants to prevent a modification that adds a geographic restriction, she needs competent legal counsel to review the time lines, the issues, and formulate a strategy. The geographic restriction is there to protect the non-custodial parent’s relationship with the children, it is not there to punish the custodial parent. If you have a lawyer, let him/her do their job. If you don’t have a lawyer and your case has been filed in Collin, Dallas, or Denton County please give me a call.

  38. Stephanie says:

    Other parent no longer has any visitation rights at all (in person or electronically)so does the geographical restriction still apply to me.

    • royreeves says:

      If it is in your orders it is in your orders. When you say he “no longer has any visitation rights” were they terminated by a Court? If so, then the custody and support orders died with his rights. But if your reference is to a personal choice – you don’t let him or he does not try or both – then the Orders are still good and all provisions apply.

  39. Sara says:

    I’m a wife of NCP, have had joint custody for the past 5 years. Husband is being considered for new job and will have to readjust child support to new annual income. Ex wife states she can no longer be able to live off of child support income bc she has no job and would like to move to Dallas to live with fiancé who makes decent money. We have a geographical restriction currently that limits CP to move two kids out of Texas but if she moved to Dallas that’s over 200miles away. Can we modify the geo restriction to an even smaller distant? Is it likely for a court to award modification of geo restriction to a mother who has more financial stability with a new spouse in a different location?

    • royreeves says:

      You have to file for a modification to adjust child support anyway, so you are going to court, she is likely to fight because she needs something. Expect her to say she will agree to the less child support but only if you agree to the move. That is a common tactic but your husband it giving up a winning case to accept a losing one. Mom does not get to change the geographic restriction because it is convenient to her. The operative question is two parts: How does the move benefit the child? And does that “new” benefit outweigh the benefit the child will receive by having a continuing relationship with the father? All of this is in context as well, so if Father is a stay-away father who only exercises visitation when it is convenient, that is the relationship that is bing weighed against the benefit of the move. If, he is a real Daddy to he child, then again, that is the relationship that is weighed.

  40. Thomas says:

    I’m NCP with expanded standard possession order and my current decree states that my ex has right to move within the county and contiguous counties. It also states as primary conservator, she has the right to make educational decisions after consultation with me. We currently live about 3 miles from each other. Recently she has stated she plans to move to the next county (approx 20-30 miles away), and will be pulling our daughter out of public school in favor of homeschool. I’m strongly opposed to both of these decisions as our daughter is doing very well in school, and is involved in many extra-curricular activities here. Our son will also be starting at the same school very soon, and has also started up his own extra-curricular activities here as well. He is currently attending a private preschool where he is also doing very well. There are two steps to my issue here:

    1. I disagree with moving the kids to be homeschooled. It’s an unnecessary lifestyle change away from something both kids are doing extremely well in.

    I have since, remarried, and my wife’s relationship with the kids has been amazing since the start. We are very actively involved in the kids’ school and extra-curricular activities, such as attending a majority of the school events from field day, to awards ceremonies, etc., as well as coaching soccer and baseball for the kids.

    2. The move would not only move the kids out of one of the top school districts in the state to a much worse district, but would also make it very difficult to maintain such an active role in school and outside activities. While they would be moving closer to my ex’s family, they would be moving away from all of their friends.

    Personally, I don’t see the benefit toward the kids for this change. Is there anything I can do short of picking up and moving closer again to try to maintain that relationship? I have considered offering to let the kids enroll in school through my address so they can keep the same schools, or possibly even attempting to amend the custody rights to try to become the primary conservator.

    • royreeves says:

      Your only choice is to file a Motion to Modify and get the Judge involved. The way you describe the facts she is exercising rights as they are set out in the Orders/Decree. So enforcement is not an option, you are limited to changing the judge’s orders.

  41. Casey says:

    I am sole conservator and primary custodian of our 5 year old daughter. I have no geographic restrictions. I want to move from Corpus Christi texas to Austin Texas. I let the dad know I was moving and he said it was ok. I am afraid to move and then have him drag me back to county stating I did not advise him I was moving and take me to court to modify the no geographic restriction. Do I need a written acknowledgement or consent stating he knows I left. Also if he takes me back to court would it be in Corpus or in Austin? I know that you have to live in a county 3 months to have jurisdiction.

    • royreeves says:

      A written agreement is always best but not necessary. If you simply document you told him, that is good enough. Your orders have a provision that you have to tell him and the court if you move, or intend to move, so do that. Send a letter to him and the Court. Follow the instructions in your orders. All that said, if he is willing to put into writing he knows and agrees, get that too, but still file the notice with the court.

  42. Dominique Moore says:

    I am currently seeking a modification to my order. We did not have a geographic restriction in our last order where I took my ex to court for expanded visitation. Her family is here my family is here and so is her boyfriends family yet they moved to San Antonio shortly after I got expanded visitation after waiting a year for mediation.

    What are my chances that the judge will agree that my 8 year old son needs to be back in this area even though there was no geographic restriction and the last time he spoke with his ad litem attorney he said he wanted to stay where his mother has moved after saying he wanted to move back two of the other three times.

    I’ve always been involved in my sons life bought school clothes paid my child support on time and faithfully excercised my visitation. But it’s taken a year to get a final hearing date and they have now been moved for a little over a year.

    I feel like I am fighting an uphill battle but a 2 hour move away has greatly hindered my relationship with my son as well as his extended family on both sides.

    • royreeves says:

      You need to file the Motion and do it ASAP. I cannot tell you the “likelihood” of it being granted since that is entirely dependent on the facts presented to the Judge. Why did she move, what is the benefit to the child in the move, how does it affect your relationship with the child (that one is pretty obvious to me, but it is all about what the Judge hears via evidence). My own personal opinion – it looks like she intentionally took off because she did not like the Judge’s ruling, but can you prove that to a Judge? If so, it will very much affect the way a Judge reacts. Did you have an agreement for Geo Restriction and it did not make it into the Orders? If so that also affects the outcome. But if you have an Agreed Order where you did not have a lawyer and she did and you signed away believing her attorney was protecting you . . . well, that will affect the Judge’s evaluation also. If you are in the Dallas area, I can set you an appointment and we can discuss in more detail. If you are not in the Dallas area, you need to get an appointment with a local attorney who handles family law matters and you will need an hour or two of the attorney’s time just to go over the details. No one wants to be told it will cost $500-700 just to find out if you have a leg to stand on in court, but it is a lot cheaper than paying a retainer of 10X that amount to be dumped out in the Courtroom.

  43. Ally says:

    I was able to move more than 100 miles away so long as I was attending a certain school/ law school. NCP still gets his 1,3,5th visitation with me doing all the driving. I recently asked NCP to meet me midway (waco) on Fridays HE AGREED, however I still have to drive down on Sundays. I would like to modify the order to exclude the language that I have to attend a certain school, because he still gets the same access as of I was less than 100 miles away. How likely do you think it is that this request will be granted? I would also like him to meet me on both Friday and Sunday.

    • royreeves says:

      If you are a law student then you should already know, everything in the Court Room is dependent on the facts that get presented to the Judge. Look up the Adams case – it will explain the factors the Court will consider and do an analysis, it will be good practice for you.

      • Ally says:

        Hello,
        Thank you for your reply. Allow me to clarify, I am not currently in law school, the order states I as long as I am enrolled at a certain school I can live 100 miles or more away. I would like to get a modification to remove the language about me having to be enrolled in school. However, I will review the Adams case again. Thank you.

  44. Sherry Lara says:

    My son who is the non costodial parent has temporary orders with a geographic restriction, the mother decided to move five counties away before the temporary orders were turned into final orders. Now the final orders have been signed and include a geographical restriction which she is now violating. She now wants to go by the paragraph in the order that states parents who live MORE than 100 miles away. This significantly reduces my sons visitation with his daughter. Which one wins. The geographical restriction or the 100 miles or more visitation.

    • royreeves says:

      Geographic Restriction wins BUT ONLY IF HE ENFORCES IT. That means he has to file a motion with the court and enforce the order.

      The legal Cannons of Construction require that when two provisions conflict (believe it or not these do not conflict) the “more specific” term will control. So, in this context, the geographic restriction is “more specific” because it says “IT IS ORDERED that . . .” which makes it a specific order of the Court, whereas the long distance provisions state “If the child resides . . .”. Note, one is a YOU WILL DO THIS and the other is a IF THIS OCCURS. That is why the Geographic Restriction is both controlling and there is no conflict.

      Your son needs to go to Court and file for custody or enforcement or both and he needs to do it sooner than later. FYI – if she moved during the temporary orders, she probably violated those orders too – and most standing orders become injunctive unless challenged so she probably violated 3 different orders . . .

  45. Luis Molina says:

    If a CP has no restriction and is met by the non-CP filing a motion to stop the move, what type of evidence (if any) can the CP use to demonstrate that the non-CP is in many ways unfit? Outside of just establishing that the move is in the best interest of the child in and of itself. Suppose that the non-CP is on file for harassment and stalking the CP. Can those types of details be invoked?

    • royreeves says:

      I cannot answer a question like this in an open forum. The evidence you have has to be looked at and the first question is what evidence do you have the other parent is unfit? Second, is that evidence admissible or can it be made admissible? Is it sufficient and keep in mind, your opinion that he/she is unfit does not count. Plus you state that it is best for the child to move but the test is will the move benefit the child and if so, does that benefit derived from the move outweigh the benefit of the child having access to and a relationship with the other parent. You need to hire a skilled Custody Attorney or at least pay for an hour or two of his time to discuss your question and the facts.

  46. Chrystal says:

    Under geographic restriction – if the custodial moves to another county against the non-custodial parents wishes – What happens then? What can the non-custodial parent do at that point?

    • royreeves says:

      Hire a lawyer and file a Motion to Modify and to Enforce. The longer you wait the more it looks like you did agree and later changed your mind. Do this soon and the other side will likely claim permission but they have to prove permission and that alone is not enough. Moving violated a Court Order. Use that fact.

  47. Sarah says:

    After hurricane Harvey my family, and I were displaced three hours away. We plan to move back, but as of right now will I get in trouble for moving?

    • royreeves says:

      Hurricane Harvey was beyond your control, so not likely you will get into trouble. It is just a fact of life. The move itself was necessitated by mother nature. That said, if moving put you outside the geographic restricted area and the other party wants to make a deal of it, the Judge will ask both of you “what took so long?” Why did you not return when the water receded? Why did the other side way months to say anything? It is possible, a judge who has been dealing with a plight of problems like this could fuss at one or both of you, and if there is evidence the other side asked and you simply delayed because you could – then you may get fussed at a lot. Worst case, you could be told the other side will have temporary custody until you move (Judges do know how to motivate compliance without contempt or jail.) Of course everything is fluid in a custody case and facts that I do not have can effect the proceedings so the best thing is always find a local lawyer to handle the issue.

  48. Sara says:

    What is considered “primary” in terms of “primary residence?”

    • royreeves says:

      I need context to answer your question. If you are referring to “Mother has the exclusive right to establish the primary residence of the child(ren)” or some similar phrase in your custody orders then it means that Mom’s address is the children’s “legal address for school and any government records”. If you are asking in another context please advise.

  49. Rose says:

    We got a geographical restriction… And now we’re back together and getting married, do we have to do anything with the court?

    • royreeves says:

      Congratulations on the marriage. I hope I am understanding this correctly – you and the father of the child(red) are getting married to one another? If that is correct, you will need to look at your orders. The first place to look is right above the Child Support section. You are looking to find if you have language like this – “The provisions of this Order relating to conservatorship, possession, or access terminate on the remarriage of __________ to __________ unless a nonparent or agency has been appointed conservator of the children under chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code.” This is the exact language I use in my decrees/orders. Other attorneys may use different words but the same intent should be there. If it is in your Orders, then when you marry, they end, you do nothing unless there is a withholding order. If there is a withholding order, file a Motion to terminate withholding order – any reasonable attorney can do this in 2 hours or less including the drive to the Courthouse. If you do not have termination language, then you should file a Motion to Modify with Agreed termination of Child Custody Orders. More typing so maybe 3 hours total time. The point is it is easy enough to clean up the papers to keep the Attorney General from doing an automatic review that it really should be done.

  50. Crystal says:

    I am divorced and in our divorce decree we have geographic restrictions in it. We have joint custody of our children. Back in 2012 his great grandmother and my dad passed away a week apart and he asked to get the kids for her funeral and then he said that they are going to live with him from now on cause he way more money than I do. We have gotten along pretty good then all of a sudden I can only get my kids when he says it’s ok. I have gotten remarried and have moved out of the geographic restriction but I’m right over the county line. He doesn’t tell me when they have any Drs appointments or what is going on at school. Now he is talking about moving 6 hours away from me and has already told me I can get my kids one month out of the summer and every other Christmas. He works all of the time and idk where or whom they will be staying with when he moves. I have contact with my kids everyday. We talk on the phone and we skype everyday. When he moves this will stop. I need some advice on what I should do so I can still have regular visitation with my kids like I have been getting them. I get them every weekend except one weekend a month when he is in. What can I do

    • royreeves says:

      You have to hire a lawyer. When he took the kids and told you what was going to happen 6 years ago and you let him – you effectively empowered him to believe he does not have to follow the court’s orders and that he has the power to change them. He does not. But you have let him. Hire a lawyer, file a Motion to Modify, or a Motion to Clarify and enforce your parental rights.

  51. MikeD says:

    My girlfriend is currently going through a divorce that has been going on for over 2 years. She became pregnant about 5 months ago and I live 33 miles away from her soon to be ex husbands house. My home is also in a continuous county. He is contesting us living in Collin county and wants her to stay in dallas county only. She currently has primary custody through temp orders. Temp order say Dallas county. What are the odds that he can keep her in that county even though she can’t afford to live there if she has to stay there?

    • royreeves says:

      It is virtually impossible for me to tell you the odds of what a Judge will do with so few facts. I know that is not what you want to hear, but I can only assume she lives in Dallas County now, or that the case is in Dallas County because you said that is what the father wants. If she has a lawyer, this question is best asked to him or her because the attorney has the facts. That said, the default restriction is to the County where the divorce takes place and counties that are contiguous. But please understand, just because that is the default rule does not mean the Judge has to follow it. The Judge must do what is best for the child under the circumstances and that requires the request be in writing (pleadings) and shown in Court, and asked for in Court. It is vitally important to understand, the Judge has to follow the Rules of Civil Procedure if anyone ask which is why a person who has no lawyer is almost guaranteed to loose if the other side does have a lawyer.

  52. Matthew Lewis says:

    I am the (NCP) and I was wanting to know if I could move to another county if the (CP) is the one under Geographic restriction? Would that effect me in anyway?

    • royreeves says:

      Excellent question and the answer is most likely in your court orders. The restriction by the way is on the child, not the other parent. But, do your orders let her move if you move first? If the answer is no, then the bigger question is how far are you moving and how will it affect your relationship with your child.

  53. Kate says:

    You mentioned “domicile by operation of law.” What would that mean for subject matter jurisdiction when the custodial parent dies, the non-custodial parent lives in another state, and a third party tries to sue for custody? Someone told me that the child’s domicile reverts to the state of the surviving parent.

    • royreeves says:

      No. The Uniformed Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act would apply. The more operative question is if this 3rd party even has the legal right to ask for custody. The custody should default to the non-custodial parent. The 3rd party has to show the legal authority to even ask for custody but that is another discussion in it’s own right. First thing is first, UCCJEA controls and defines “Home State”. Home State has priority but there are Court’s of Continuing Exclusive Jurisdiction in many states, is there an order out of one of those states? If so, is it the same as Home State? If yes, then you have your state of jurisdiction. If not, there has to be an analysis and the Home State Judge gets to decide.

  54. Karen says:

    Does geographical restrictions stop when the child turns 18?

    • royreeves says:

      A geographic restriction remains in place as long as the child is subject of Court Custody Orders. In other words, if there is child support that has to be paid because the child is enrolled in high school after turning 18, then the restriction is in play until that child support ends. Otherwise, traditionally, yes the geo restriction ends when the child is 18. But, if the court retains jurisdiction because the child has special needs . . .

  55. Sarah says:

    I live in Texas and my ex only sees our son 2 days a month. He doesn’t take him for his ordered time such as Christmas, spring break and Summer month. Our son is almost 11 and wants to continue to live with me. What are my chances of having the geographic restriction lifted. Thank you

    • royreeves says:

      Asking an attorney “what are my chances of winning in court” is not the same thing as asking a dealer in Las Vegas “what are my odds of winning at black jack?”. When playing a game of chance, be it the lottery or Black Jack, Craps, Roulette, etc. there are defined odds such as playing red in Roulette gives you a 47.3% chance of doubling your money (there are two greens which bumps the odds in the house’s favor). In Roulette, I can count the alternatives, there are 38 possible outcomes if I am betting a number, there are 4 outcomes if I am betting columns or blocks, and 3 outcomes if I am betting Red/Black/Green or Even/Odd/Infinity.

      However, in a court of law, the unknown factors – the wild cards if you will, are unlimited. Will he contest the case? Yes or No. That alone is a 50/50 shot. If no, then you win but if yes, we go to the next wild card – can you show a positive effect on the child if allowed the move? This is not a 50/50 chance because “positive effect” is not defined, it is whatever the Judge says it is and even if it is there, is it enough to justify the move? Assume the answer to that last is “yes” then we have to look at the relationship between the child and the father and how will the move affect that relationship. Will it improve or hurt the relationship. If it improves, that is good for the child, you have very good odds of winning, but if it hurts, is the positive effect on the child’s life outweigh the damage to the parent-child relationship caused by the move? If no, you loose, if yes, then you may win (at least you are getting close to a win). But if Dad says hold on, I want a better relationship with my child and Mom will not let me. Will a Judge believe him or you or will a Judge find a little truth in both or no truth in either. Add to this, your motivation is a factor. If you want to move because it is good for you that does not hurt you but it does not help either. If you want to move to hurt dad – at least if a Judge thinks you want to move to hurt dad, you loose.

      I promise, I am not trying to be cagey, I simply cannot answer a question like this. Even if you were to come to my office and write a check for a retainer and give me your file and let me review your life in detail, I cannot tell you the odds of winning, I could only tell you that based on the facts as you present them that I would or would not take your case to a Judge.

  56. Jean says:

    Hello,
    In 2016 my ex and I were living in LA. We separated and he took the kids without letting me know, after months of not knowing the where abouts of my kids he took me to court to get child support.
    I moved back to Tx after mediation and we now have a geographic restriction. Since then I’ve been in a relationship we have a 3 month old son and we are planning on getting married, my ex works 1hour and 30 minutes away from the county limits and the kids spends more time with his family on his weeks since he sometimes stays overnight because because of his work.
    By the way we both have joint custody and I want to move 270 milles away.
    I have been working for the same company for 4 years and I will be able to transfer to another location, my ex has had several jobs in the past 5 years.
    Thank you.

    • royreeves says:

      How long ago did you go to mediation and court? Is your Ex’s work situation new or was that the case at the prior mediation/court time? How will your moving affect the relationship between the other parent and the kids? These are the questions the Judge needs to have you answer. You did not put a specific question so I am not sure if you asking “can I”, “should I”, “will a Judge let me” or something altogether different. All I can tell you with these limited facts is that a Judge will need to know those answers up front. How you answer them will determine if you get to even ask your question and if you are, those answers will play a large role in the Judge’s decision. Yours’ is a situation where you really need to make an appointment and discuss this with a lawyer who handles family law matters in your geographic area.

  57. ShanaL says:

    I have primary custody and only I have the geographic restriction. My ex now works several hundred miles out of the restriction area and is considering moving there as well. In our papers, it states that the parents are responsible for meeting half way between residences and he gets her every other weekend. How do I go about lifting the restriction? I’m also wanting to move out of the restriction area to be with my fiance who works down south and actually reside in a home that is in my name.

    • royreeves says:

      Read YOUR court orders carefully to see if you can move without going to court. The Geographic Restriction language sometimes, but not always restricts the residence of the children for so long as the other parent resides inside the same area. It may even state, if at the time AAA wants to remove the children from area for the purposes of establishing residence, BBB does not reside in area . . . . This can be said a couple ways but hopefully you can get the gist of what you need to look for. That is what I call an escape clause. If it is there, then your papers tell you if you have to go to court or not. But, also read the part about meeting half way – it may have a provision that if he moves, he pays. Your move may or may not affect that. And if it does, how does it affect and if you move too will that also affect it . . . .

      This is a case where you may want to meet with and just pay for a local attorney’s time to review the documents.

  58. Ashleydeeds says:

    Hi. Ex and I just finished court, and was able to remove geo restriction and move over 100 miles away. I am terrified that one day we will have to move back. Is this possible? Can the judge make us move back after granting us permission to move 100 miles away? If so what are some things that could cause this.

    • royreeves says:

      As long as you have minor children, the Court has jurisdiction over those children and that means a Judge can do a lot of things – provided someone asks and the Judge finds the request will be in the best interest of the children. So, “is it possible?” I say “anything is possible if the facts and circumstances are correct.” You simply cannot live a life worried about what might possibly happen one day at some point in the unintended future.

      This brings me to the second question – what are some things that could cause a Judge to change the ruling? It is difficult if not impossible to answer that question. The Judge is tasked with one primary instruction in all custody cases – do what is in the best interest of the child. Unfortunately, what is in your child’s best interest can and will change over time based on you and your ex as well as your children. For example, if your child makes bad choices and you cannot control him/her and the child runs away from home – that changes everything, but if Dad is also not able to control the child or provide adequate supervision, then that nullifies the first change. The list of “changes” that may occur is endless which is why it is impossible to say if a Judge will ever reverse the order, what you need to know is to do so, there must be some change after the date the Judge let you move. Assume the day the Judge said you can move 100 miles the Judge took a picture of your life, I am referring to a change in that picture. A Judge will change your custody orders only if there is a change to your life after that picture is made AND the change affects the child, AND reinstating the geographic restriction will benefit the child.

      I know it is not a warm fuzzy feeling answer but your question does not lend itself to a conclusive answer. I can only advise at this time, relax and love your kids and live your life and worry about tomorrow when it gets here.

  59. Dustin says:

    Hi, I live in rockwall county. She lives in dallas county. I have custody, she has standard possession. County restrictions are dallas and rockwall. She is moving without informing me to Abilene. (My kids told me) when she makes this move she will be at least an hour away. Do I need to ask permission per the judge to move or can I because she has? Also if she agrees to sign the no geographical restriction paper is that something that can be done and or approved without going to court? Thank you!

    • royreeves says:

      Read YOUR court orders. I do not have a copy of your orders in front of me, and there is no way I can know if your orders have the “escape clause” or not. Escape clause is my own term, please don’t call your divorce attorney who represented you in the past and ask if you have an escape clause. What you want to do is read your orders. The Geographic Restriction is usually referenced twice (your milage may vary) – the first time is states you, as Joint Managing Conservator have the exclusive right to establish the domicile of the children within Dallas County and/or Rockwall County, Texas (or something similar) and the second time there is a long paragraph about the geographic restriction that normally, but not always has the title GEOGRAPHIC RESTRICTION and this is the one I want you to read carefully. Does it use the term “for so long as mom resides in Dallas County and/or Rockwall County” or words to that effect? Does it state “If at the time Dad wants to remove the children from county for the purpose of changing domicile, Mom does not live in county . . .”? This can be said a couple ways but hopefully you can get the gist of what you need to look for. That is what I call an escape clause. If it is there, then you have your answer. If it is not – you are in a catch 22 situation, but so is Mom.

      If the escape clause is there, you know what to do. If the escape clause is not there, I can look at the order for you, sit down face to face and explain your options and how to time the actions so that you have the best chance of getting away with the action of your choice. Sort of a pay for 1-2 hours of attorney time now as insurance to save 20-40 hours of attorney time later.

  60. Taylor says:

    So if I’m about to undergo custody with my kiddos father. And I’m getting married to a soldier who lives in the same state but 10 hours away. Can they put geo restrictions on me if I’m already remarried?

    • royreeves says:

      The short answer is “yes, the Court can put a geographic restriction on the residence of the child at any time as long as the child remains under the age of 18 or otherwise subject to court orders.”

      Texas Family Code 153.001(a) states: The public policy of this state is to: (1) assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with the parents who have shown the ability to act in the best inures of the child; (2) provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for th child; and (3) encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.

      Note, there is no time limitation and it does not reference marital status of the parents after the fact. Your marriage to a soldier has nothing whatsoever to do with the relationship between the child and the other parent. I must point out the obvious – you are asking if your relationship with your new husband (finance) somehow trumps your child’s relationship with the father. That answer is a resounding NO!.

  61. Ivan says:

    Hi. I just got denied a request for a geographical restriction for my 10 year old daughter. I’m in West Texas and her mom decided she wanted to move to Wisconsin. I have been involved in my daughter’s life since day one and I have a very close relationship and I always exercised my visitation. Her mom testified that I was not involved but brought no evidence. I on the other hand presented evidence of my involvement in her life. She gave me a 60 day notice that she was moving and I immediately filed a petition to modify my order to add a geographical restriction. I’m not sure why the judge denied me. My question is, is there ANYTHING I can do at this point to bring my daughter back as soon as possible? I thought getting a geographical restriction was as simple as asking so long as you have a relationship with the child. I have a strong relationship with my daughter. What can I do? I want my daughter back as soon as possible!

    • royreeves says:

      Texas Family Code 153.001(a) states: The public policy of this state is to: (1) assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with the parents who have shown the ability to act in the best inures of the child; (2) provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for th child; and (3) encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.

      This provision has been interpreted in multiple appeals court cases to mean, you succinctly stated, getting a geographical restriction is as simple as asking so long as the person asking has a relationship with the child. Accordingly, I have to ask, what the heck happened in that courtroom that is not within the details you gave me? I am not accusing you of withholding information, I am perplex. I routinely tell clients, a geographic restriction is easy to get very difficult to get out of if the other person just puts forth some effort. That means there is some fact that may not have seemed important to you that the Judge locked in and focused on, or perhaps the Judge really is human and made a mistake. Without taking the time to review the pleadings, the evidence, and the record – it would be impossible for me to advise you specifically.

      I give this next only in a general sense, please discuss with a local attorney who knows the Judge and the local Appellate District landscape before taking any direct action. If you were in my office, my first instinct is file a Motion for New Trial, ask the Judge who let mom move reconsider the decision. That does two things: (1) it lets the Judge reconsider, and (2) it extends the appellate time lines. From there, I would advise we need copy of the transcript so that I could review the exact ruling, what was said in Court, and maybe figure out what happened to result in this ruling. Step three is to ask for Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law – this is the legal means by which a Judge who made a ruling must state on paper why he or she ruled a certain way (without this the appeals court Judges can say “we must assume the trial judge did this because ________” and they can fill in that blank with any reasonable answer that supports the trial Judge’s actions. Once the trial Judge says I found the following facts and I made the following conclusions based on the law, the appeal Judges cannot fill in the blank with anything that is not on the Trial Judge’s statement. In other words, it takes the “we must assume” out of the equation because we know what the Trial Judge was thinking and why.

      FYI: if this is done timely, the Trial Judge may, after seeing he or she has to put the why on paper, reconsider the decision (think of it as the second bite at the apple).

      Finally, assuming the Trial Judge has not reformed the decision, the next step is to file the appeal. ALL OF THIS IS VERY TIME SENSITIVE. The date the Judge rules starts a clock, you need to begin the process within 30 days. There are very few exceptions to this 30 day rule and those exceptions must be based on something someone other than you did or did not do. You cannot extend your own appellate time lines, the exceptions which I cannot state enough are very limited are all based on someone else doing something or not doing something. Everything in your column is your responsibility and you do not get more time when it is your fault something is not done.

      To restate – run, do not walk, run to the nearest qualified family law attorney who handles both trials and appeals. Sit down and explain to him/her all the details and answer the questions to the best of your ability and knowledge. Plan on filing something to extend the 30 day time limitation, and then prepare to get a copy of the transcript. You should read it too. It amazes people when they read a transcript, lawyers and parents both say things like “no, I never said that” or “that is not what I meant”, etc. It is a very eye opening experience. Your appear, if you file one, is based on what was said and documents/evidence that made it into the record. The appeals judges do not have the benefit or detriment of seeing the tears or sincerity, or lack of sincerity – they rule on paper based on what is on paper.

      Best of luck with this and my heart goes out to you. Never give up on your kid and never forget, this is your relationship with your child – fight for it because your child deserves your efforts.

  62. AJ says:

    Geographically restricted to a specific county. Father’s visitation has been supervised since child’s birth and has 4 hours of supervised contact a month. Child is very bright. Will graduate high school at 17 and has opportunity to attend Ivy League college out of state. How likely is Judge to lift restriction? .

    • royreeves says:

      It depends in part on the Judge, but with the facts as you put them you are in a good position. The Texas Supreme Court has provided guidance on when a geographic restriction should be lifted – we call them the Adams Factors since etc case is Adams v. Adams. There are a couple others as well, but the general concept is this: geographic restrictions are designed to protect and promote a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent, therefore to lift the restriction the Court must consider the effect, if any, lifting the restriction will have on the relationship that will be effected and weigh that detriment (if any) against the benefit (if any) the child will experience if the geographic restriction is lifted.

      Simple analysis using your facts as presented – Dad has a nominal relationship with a 17 YO. How will that relationship be effected, if at all, if the child moves away? Can the Judge grant the change and reduce the effect on the relationship and if so how (perhaps get rid of the requirement they be supervised)? Then, and this is the big one – what benefit doe the child get from the move? Now, taking these facts into consideration, the Judge decides if the restriction should be lifted or not.

  63. Mrs.Marshall says:

    I’m going to be joining the military and I’m not sure how soon I’ll need to inform the non-custodial parent of my change. Can I let them know after training and AIT? Also when I do leave for basic training will my child be able to remain with my husband or will they have to go to the non-custodial parent?

    • royreeves says:

      Your custody orders will probably tell you when you have to inform the other parent of changes. Occasionally, the orders say “within a reasonable time” and if that is the case my own rule is this, if you have time to tell your mother, your minister or your best friend (or new spouse for that fact) then you have time to tell the other parent. Whether or not the child stays with your new spouse or the other parent is a fact dependent matter – (1) Does your custody orders dictate? (2) Will the other parent fight to have possession? (3) Do you and the other parent have any history of child exchange – i.e. does the other parent ever try to see the kids? (4) How old are the kids? (5) Will changing custody – temporarily have a negative effect on school or the child’s emotional wellbeing?

      Bottom line, it is impossible for me, or any other attorney for that fact, to answer your question as you have posed it with no details or facts to support what you want or why. I presume you are hoping for an easy answer, but as with almost all custody issues, there is no easy answer. Your case, your children, and your facts are unique to you and the family code deals in general applications. There is no set time frame in the law, but there may be a set time frame in your custody orders. Give them a read and if you are in the north Texas area (Collin, Dallas, Denton, or Rockwall Counties) give me a call and we will set up a time to meet and discuss your facts.

  64. Rachel says:

    I am in Denton county. Custodial parent of 2 boys. My ex husband was sentenced today with 2 years for Assault causing bodily injury to a family member with previous conviction. He goes back to court in 3 days for another assault charge and DWI. Since he’s incarcerated are the geographical restrictions lifted? How would I go about terminating his parental rights?

    • royreeves says:

      Lifting a geographic restriction is a process like almost every other request to a Court. First, if the only thing you want to do is lift the geographic restriction, read your current orders. Do they have an escape clause? By that, I am asking do your orders state something like “for so long as Father resides in the same geographic area”, or “if at the time Mother desires to move, father does not live within the geographic area . . .” or any other phrases that somehow give you an automatic lift of the restriction? If you have one of these provisions, once he is sentenced and transferred to TDC, if the facility he is put in is outside the geographic area, you can simply take advantage of the circumstances. However, if you do not have an escape clause, you have to go to Court and as the Judge. That occurs just like every other case, you have to file a petition, serve the other side, have a hearing, put on evidence and get the Judge to grant permission. Note, father in prison pretty much makes some of this formality – it is not as if the Texas Department of Corrections is going to just let him go to the Courthouse.

      Now, if your goal is to terminate while he is incarcerated – you may have grounds based on what you told me here. But that is a discussion that will take some legal analysis and more information – assuming that is the goal and the facts line up, the process is the same but the formalities must be followed to the letter.

  65. Tim Parker says:

    My order reads “surrounding” and not “contiguous” counties, are these considered the same?

    • While every case is unique and the Judge in your county may have a particular point of view, the standard is the County of residence and the counties that are contiguous. Contiguous means those that touch and therefore necessarily includes “surrounding”. A creative lawyer could argue “surrounding” is a larger area than contiguous since the term is more broad. If you consider the word “surrounding” to have the same meaning as “contiguous” you are erring on the safe side.

  66. Garrett H says:

    We have geo restrictions to Harris county and my ex took a promotion and moved to Midland. I did not agree with this move obviously. My ex claims that I lived outside of harris county therefore she has the freedom to move my daughter anywhere. I never established residency outside of harris county at any time post divorce but I did have my mail sent to my parents outside of harris county. I have asked her off the record to move my daughter back and she obviously has refused. What do I need to file to enforce the order. I have excellent records of all the happenings and to me it is pretty cut and dry I am just unsure as what to file. Can you lend direction? Thanks!

    • royreeves says:

      There are two options: (1) file a Motion to Enforce or (2) File a Motion to Modify. The discussion of “residence” vs. “domicile” in a legal context will likely be the crux of your case. My best advice is to locate a skilled family attorney in Harris County and go have a discussion.

  67. Ellie Davis says:

    Thank you for this information on child custody cases. My husband and I are divorcing. I’ll have to get the best lawyer to help me get custody.

  68. Amanda says:

    I have a question about contingent counties. My custody agreement restricts me to Collin county and it’s contingent counties. I have been considering moving for work and am looking in the Denton county/Dallas county area. Since these counties touch Collin, would I still be in accordance with my custody agreement? I know this seems redundant but I just want to be sure.

    Thanks,
    Amanda

    • royreeves says:

      Contiguous Counties means any county that physically touches the county in question. So, yes, Dallas and Denton Counties both touch Collin County and you would still be inside the geographically designated area.

  69. Jose Pacheco says:

    Hi,

    I’ll try to keep it short and simple. I received a Job opportunity 3yr ago in Illinois. I spoke when my wife’s ex husband to see if we can come up with an agreement to be able to move with the kids out of state. I sent him an email states the agreement and reversed it on us. We took him to court and he played the sob story when every year he deploys for 6 months and I can say he only spent 15% of the time with his kids and he would have other people pick them up when he is not there for the weekend to make it seem he is there.

    That being said I requested to transfer to JBSA Texas. Now I have orders to go back to Illinois. My wife notified her ex husband this time and they came up with an agreement stating a lot of invaluable requests. We agreed to those term in which we have in email. Now he is going back on his work and stating he never agreed to anything. My wife and I have twin boys of our own along with her kids that are 16 and 10. Can you please guide me, I live in Austin Tx.

    • royreeves says:

      You are unfortunately in a difficult situation – an agreement is not an agreement unless everyone accepts and admits it. E-mail is evidence of negotiation, and even if the other side said “yes” at one point, it was only an agreement at the moment and not legally binding in Court. Now, there MAY be a breach of contract claim, but that is a lengthy discussion involving “detrimental reliance” reasonableness, whether or not there is an actual agreement, did ed-wife’s husband have authority (BTW – why are you asking him, it is not his choice)? Bottom line, if this is still an ongoing issue, you need local legal counsel to sit down and review the current orders – what do they say, is there an escape clause and if so, does it apply. What do you want, what benefit does the child have if you get what you want, and how does your request affect the other parent’s relationship with the children (step-dad’s relationship is not a concern – you may let it be a concern, he may show up an argue it is a concern, but he has no legal rights so it is not a concern).

  70. Don says:

    Is it possible for me to have my court order modified to enforce a Geographic Restriction?

    If so, how is it done?

    Thanks in advance.

    • royreeves says:

      Yes. Very often parties will not put a geographic restriction in place in the original orders because no one asked or it is simply agreed, no one intends to move so why bother? Then years later, it suddenly becomes important – it is time to bother. When this happens the process is to file a Motion to Modify and it is always better to file before the other party moves. It is “possible” to have a party ordered to return but it is much easier to get a Judge to simply order a party cannot leave or must wait until the Judge decides. In fact, many Counties have “Standing Orders” that automatically mandate no one moves with the kids during the pendency of proceedings.

      How is it done? The process is like any other Motion to Modify an existing Court Order, you prepare and file a Motion attaching the order you want changed and simply ask the Court to make the change adding a geographic restriction. Then serve the other side. What happens after that will be unique to your case but in general it follows the same path as any other litigation: Respondent gets time to file an answer, parties negotiate if they want, parties exchange discovery, you may or may not go to mediation, and eventually if you do not reach an agreement, there is a trial and the Judge decides if you get the changes you asked for or not. If the judge denies all request, nothing changes, if the Judge grants any change, then a new order is drafted and signed.

  71. Free CRM says:

    Very good write-up. I absolutely love this website. Continue the good work!

  72. CDW says:

    Geographical restriction placed on CP during motivation request in 2017. CP was remarried at time to current husband in military. Since NCp has also remarried and both CP and NCP have had a baby so both sides have new siblings to child of custody agreement. CP filed for modification to change Geo restriction due to new baby. NCP picks up child for custody agreement ordered times, attends sporting events of child during non possession time, kept child for CP during no. Possession time to support pregnancy issue. All extended family member on all sides live in geo restricted areas. Does CP have grounds to warrant geo graphical restriction to be lifted?

    • royreeves says:

      Lifting a geographic restriction is difficult. The purpose of a Geographic Restriction is to ensure the child has frequent and continual contact with both parents and in particular the NCP. A CP can file a motion to lift for basically any reason but if the NCP objects, the CP (or party who wants to move with the child) must show the Court that the move has a benefit to the child and the benefit to the child will outweigh the damage or limitation caused to the relationship between the child and the other parent.

      Applying this standard to the facts you set out, CP should loose the request to move, but that is only if the NCP objects and shows up in court. Do not ever assume the Court will protect you if you do not protect yourself and never underestimate the attorneys involved. Just because the law is on your side does not mean you automatically win, it means you win if you show up and point at the law. The law is on NCP side in this scenario because the move as described benefits CP” and it may benefit CP’s other child, the benefit to the child involved in the case is minimal at best, and NCP has maintained a relationship and is trying – ALL NCP’S NEED TO READ THAT LAST STATEMENT, “TRY” IS THE OPERATIVE WORD. THE NCP IN THIS SCENARIO IS MAKING THE EFFORT. As long as NCP is making effort, CP’s ability to move is more difficult.

  73. Amanda says:

    I am custodial parent and have a geographical restriction of Texas in our divorce decree. Non custodial parent is moving to Pittsburg, PA. He has agreed that since he is moving out of state that it is okay for me to move our child out of state. We will sit down and work out a new visition agreement before he leaves. Since both of us agree that the child can be moved out of state do we need to go to court to modify our agreement? Would written, notarized permission be enough, legally, for me to move our child out of state?

    • royreeves says:

      First, always read your Decree, the answer you need is probably in the document but you do need to verify. Look for the section on Geographic Restriction. You are looking to see if there is an escape clause (my name for it, it does not actually have that title). The Escape Clause will say something like “Mom may not relocate the child outside geographic defined area unless, at the time Mom desires to relocated outside geographic defined area, Father does not reside in geographic area.” The words may be different but the concept is the same, you are looking to see if it provides an automatic out if Dad moves first. If so, you do not need anything but, a written agreement you describe will make life simple and easy for all.

      Now, if there is no “escape clause” you do need a written document and motorized is best. This does not have to be filed with the Court, but you do want to keep it safe and one way to do that is file a motion to modify and file it with the Court – then the Judge has a copy and you are golden. However, I am aware that is not free, and as long as you never need the evidence (or if you do, you can find it) a written document is fine – just treat it like a Will or Medical Directive or other VERY IMPORTANT LEGAL DOCUMENT and keep if safe where you can find it if you need it.

  74. Jessica says:

    We have gone by over 100 miles visitation the past 2 years. Other parent found a shorter route of 98 miles. She now wants us to return child early. We sent certified letters before April of our dates. What do we do? We have offered to discuss going by under 100 miles after summer visitation. But we have vacation planned and now this is jeopardized. She is wanting to take us to court now what do we do?

    • royreeves says:

      Jessica:

      This is easy for me to say but tell her you are not changing and she does not get a choice and let her take you to court. Keep in mind, I do not know your case, the history, or your judge but I can tell you that 9 out of 10 judges would not be impressed by the Mother’s actions. Calculating the route to 98 miles and demanding that she get her way because of it is a technical issue and wasting the court’s time for that one thing is just a waste of time and effort. Plus, she should know that the decision is the visiting parent’s decision, not hers. Also, who moved? That is relevant to the equation – if you moved the court views it one way but if Mom moved and Mom created the problem and now Mom wants to play technical “gotcha” . . . well as you can see it is the sum total of facts that controls and the issue is a simple one. You may want to consider is it time to go to court for a custody change or modification of support – has your financial situation changed? Did mom move and if so has that caused a substantial increase in your cost associated with visitation? The point is there are issues here, more than the one “Technical gotcha” that the mother seems to be focused on.

  75. Harvey Crow says:

    I have an order that gives me approximately 52% custody and the right to exclusively designate primary residence in Dallas County or contiguous county for my child (never a marriage child was born out of wedlock 7 years ago and order has been in place for 5 years) as well as exclusive right to choose school with Dallas county or contiguous county. I recently sold my home in Dallas county and am moving to Collin county (contiguous county). I gave more notice on move than required in order.

    I am closing in the next few weeks but have been notified by OC that other parent is not happy with move and wants to prevent it. My sense is she wants money (no one gets child support; I pay 100% private school tuition by choice and 100% medical per order). About 6 years a go I filed protective order against her which she violated (went to jail) and pled guilty to.

    Does this person have a case against me? I have followed the order as written. It is almost she is angry that I did not get her approval to move but the order does not say I needed to do that. I sense she is angry that she needs to move (she rents) since I am moving far north into Collin county and the private school is far north as well.

    Why is she doing this and what should I expect? Also, how should I position my argument?

    Great insight here. Thank you.

    • royreeves says:

      Harvey:

      I cannot explain in a forum like this what you need to do. It is virtually impossible to analyze the scenario and devise a strategy based on a couple paragraphs. I would be happy to set you an appointment and review your current orders if you desire but based on what you have stated (your geographic restriction is to Dallas and contiguous counties) you need do nothing. Mom can file a Motion to Modify the Geographic Restriction and try to limit you and your facts will determine if the Judge deems the request reasonable. As a general rule, however, it is presumed the current county and contiguous counties is reasonable so you are in a good position.

      • Harvey Crow says:

        You recently replied to a question of mine. How am I violating a court order? I outlined in my post that my order states I have the right move to a contiguous county. Can you please reread my original post and verify your position? I am confused by your reply. Thank you.

  76. Jenna says:

    Hi, my husband divorced 8 years ago and he’s shared 50/50 joint legal and physical custody of their child; plus, he was granted a geographical restriction in the initial order for her to remain in the county. Both parties have started new families and the child lives 50% of the time with each parent, with good home lives. But now, his ex wife is unemployed and we have heard from child that she might move her 1,000 miles away to a different state for the lower cost of living. My husband has been an active and loving father since her birth. How concerned should we be and what possible factors could convince a judge to rule in ex wife’s favor when this eventually goes to court?

    • royreeves says:

      Jenna:

      Every case is unique but based on the fact pattern you set out, I think you can relax. First – you have a geographic restriction in place but DO NOT SIT BY AND LET MOM MOVE WITH THE CHILD. If you find out she is packing, document and your husband should let her know that he does not agree and will enforce the Orders. Mom can move, child does not. Second, have an attorney on standby – no need to get all out of sorts, a relatively small retainer should be sufficient. It is worth the cost to have a Motion to Enforce and Modify drafted and at the ready. At least have an attorney ready to do this but if you are worried ask an attorney how much to draft and hold and be ready to file on a moment’s notice. Your worst nightmare is Mom packs and leaves town with the child while you are trying to get her served with papers. She is under Court Order to not move with the child but she would not be the first to ignore a court order and no matter how disingenuous, claim she thought she could move. That is a much more difficult argument if the Sheriff hands her papers before she gets in the U-Haul.

      When she tries to get the geographic restriction lifted, the standard is (1) what benefit does the child receive from the move, (2) how will the move affect the ongoing relationship with the other parent, and (3) does the benefit the child receives outweigh the detriment the relationship would suffer. It is a lot more complicated than three check marks but if you can put yourself in the Judge’s shoes, how much benefit does a child have to receive from the move (this is child’s benefit, not Mom’s) to offset going from 3 days a week with dad to 3 days a month with an intervening 3 hour airplane ride each way?

  77. Heather says:

    I share joint managing conservatorship with my x husband, but I have the exclusive right to designate the childrens residence within 5 miles of any border of the school district we used to reside in.
    They were attending school in that district after I moved just outside the district’s border, due to the fact that I was employed by that school district. I now work for the school district in which we have moved to.
    The exact wording in the divorce states “the children shall attend public school in the school zone for which (I) reside ce is presently geographically located, until otherwise agreed upon by both parties”. Does this enable me to enroll the children in the school district we are geographically zoned to?

    • royreeves says:

      Your answer is in your hands. Please read the Orders. The Orders are issued and dated so the “current residence” means the residence you had at that time.

  78. Kelly French says:

    I was never married to the father of my children and we never went to court for custody. I filed for child support 3 years ago and they filled out a parenting plan which had I geographic restriction included. He will see his kids maybe twice a month for a few hours and isnt involved in there regular lifes. I offer to bring the kids to him and he refuses. He has been in jail for drugs, harassment, hit and run,evading arrest. Within the past 2 years.
    I would love to move to montana where my mother and sister neice and nephew are located but I’m not sure the judge will break the restriction or do I go back to the attorney general’s office since that’s where it was put into play???

    • royreeves says:

      The Attorney General will NOT assist in changing a geographic restriction. They are prohibited by Federal Law from engaging in litigation related to custody. The Attorney General Child Support Division ONLY handles the child support. Because Texas Law requires Custody and Support be attached the AG’s office will include “Standard Possession Orders” but they will not modify custody, they will not get involved in any custody dispute (though some AG employees cross that line by asserting “it is the law” as a response to one parent’s request why papers say one parent is the custodial parent. This is a gross misstatement of fact, the law they are referring to is the Federal Enabling Statute that created the Title IV-D Courts that restricts the Attorney General Child Support Division from expending any Federal Funds on custody issues.

      Bottom line, AG will handle money and only money. Beyond that, they have a one-size-fits-all custody document that they will use to satisfy the State Law requirement and they will not modify your custody agreement in any way. You must file the appropriate Motion with the Court. I cannot recommend strongly enough you consult with an attorney in your area before proceedings.

    • royreeves says:

      The Attorney General is cannot by law get involved with issues such as changing custody or geographic restrictions – it would violate they enabling statute that created the Title IV-D Courts. The AG-Child Support Division is called “Child Support Division” because that is the only thing they handle. Texas Law requires “conservatorship” be addressed if there is a “support” determination and that is why the AG’s Office uses standard possession orders that are based on the “presumptions of best interest” of the child and they will only change or adjust them if the parties have an agreement.

  79. Nathanael says:

    Hello,

    My wife left the state of Texas, with our 6 kids, all minors, where we lived for the past 3yrs. She took them back to the Chicago land area where we are originally from. I have most my family here in Texas and she has most her family there in Chicago. We own a home here in Texas though and when it comes to the best interest of the kids, they had a much better life and opportunities here than her current living situation, which is all 7 of them in one room on one bunk bed. She is working a part time job as a hostess and the kids start school in 2 weeks. Would it be possible to get the kids back and establish a geographical restriction?

    • royreeves says:

      Nathanael:

      The single best advice anyone can give you right now is hire a lawyer ASAP. You do not have time to wait. Texas laws and Illinois Laws are similar but not exactly the same. The one thing that is for certain, both states subscribe to the Uniformed Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act. Where the kids live for 6 months is the state that will control. You want the kids to come back to Texas, you MUST file your case in Texas. If you wait, your wife will file in Illinois and you will be fighting a custody battle across a state line. HIRE AN ATTORNEY NOW. The longer you wait, the more credibility your wife has when she claims you knew and agreed. If you don not agree, do something.

      • Nathanael says:

        I failed to mention that on the 8th it will be 3 months since she left. I did not agree to it though, she left while I was at work and didn’t get to say bye to my kids. I did go visit them twice already but I do want them back and she refuses. I tried to give her time and opportunity but I think it’s time to get legal help.

        • royreeves says:

          Nathaniel:

          The fact she has been gone for 3 months only makes your immediate action that more important. The fact she left without permission makes almost no difference to the Court. YOU DO NOT GET AN EXTENSION OF TIME! YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST FILE YOUR PETITION NOW! I simply cannot say that strongly enough, stop asking and start doing. Time is NOT on your side. The longer she is in Chicago, the more likely the Judge is to say she can stay until the final decision, then she can delay as long as possible and agree that it is proof the kids are better off there because they are established. LET ME SAY THIS AGAIN, STOP ASKING QUESTIONS AND HIRE AN ATTORNEY AND FILE A MOTION TO GET THE KIDS BACK NOW! I would even go so far as to suggest under the limited facts I have that you consider a Writ of Attachment and send a constable to get the kids.

  80. Rainelle says:

    Hi, my daughter lives in Texas, and has never been married to the father of her child. Their custody order prohibits her from moving out of Harris county. He has not paid any child support in over a year and 1/2 (even though he somehow has money to buy a new car.) and is over $10,000 behind and has a DUI. She works, but I am currently helping her with expenses. She would like to move back to Michigan to stay with me and be where most of her family is. Do you think she needs an attorney (money is tight) or just fill out the paperwork and get a court date? Do you think she has a good chance of getting the restriction lifted?

    • royreeves says:

      It is virtually impossible to tell you if she has a good chance or not on getting the geographic restriction lifted and YES, she needs to hire an attorney. Lifting a geographic restriction is not just paperwork. There is a procedure an most importantly, there are things that MUST be proven. Now, that said, if father defaults, it is an entirely different story but my experience is that dead beat dads that do not pay support almost always fight to stop mom from moving. It is a control thing. They don’t want to support but they also don’t want to give up control.

    • royreeves says:

      Lifting a geographic restriction is a fact intensive issue. It is all about the kids. The party that wants to life the restriction must show the benefit the child will receive if the move is allowed and establish that the benefit will outweigh the detriment that the parent-child relationship with the non-moving parent and child will incur due to the move.

      The fact scenario you point out is very common – Possessory Parent does not pay child support so Primary Parent needs to move. The “nature of the parent-child relationship” is not dependent upon money. A parent should always support a child, but the financial support is not the relationship that will be affected, it is the familial bond that the law is concerned. So, yes, she needs a lawyer.

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