One of the most unexpected consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it prompted many adults to move. Millions of Americans relocated from the city to the suburbs or were forced to move into more affordable housing in different areas.
If you or your co-parent are among one of these COVID-19 movers, you likely have concerns about how relocation might affect your custody arrangements. You might wonder whether your co-parent can prevent you from taking your child to your new residence, particularly if that new residence is out-of-state? You also might be concerned that you have to get permission from your co-parent before moving? If this is you, here are the answers to some critical questions about your custody rights and relocation.
Texas law presumes that it is in a child’s best interest for parents to share joint legal custody. Because of this, Texas courts typically award parents “joint managing conservatorship” unless there is a history of parental misconduct or abuse. Joint managing conservatorship means that parents will share the right to make important decisions about their child. Those decisions include where the child lives and travels.
If you move out-of-state before there is a custody agreement or court-ordered custody arrangement in place, there isn’t much that your co-parent can do about it.
If you both have equal rights to possession and access to your child, you can bring the child to your new residence when it is your parenting time. Conversely, your co-parent can live with the child in their home during their time.
It’s important to note here that though the law allows you to move, doing so without talking to your co-parent first isn’t a good idea. It will likely cause unnecessary strife and strain on your co-parenting relationship. Additionally, your co-parent could view the move as an attempt at retaliation and use it as evidence against you in family court. The better course of action is to work out a compromise with your co-parent around your relocation to avoid unnecessary fights down the road.
If your relocation occurs after the court has issued a custody order, then moving isn’t quite as easy. The custody order may prohibit you from moving outside of the court’s jurisdiction and any continuous counties. So you’ll have to get permission from the court to proceed with relocation. If the custody order doesn’t prohibit a move, the relocating parent still must get permission from the other parent if they intend to move with the child.
Suppose you’ve asked your co-parent for permission to move with your child, and they refuse. In that case, they can take the refusal a step further by filing for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”). A TRO will prevent you from moving until the court can hold a hearing on your relocation.
At a relocation hearing, the court will hear the reasons for your proposed move and balance those reasons against the child’s best interest. If the court finds that your reasons for relocation are compelling, they will likely allow your relocation. However, the circumstances of when and how you see your child might change depending on the court’s evaluation of your child’s needs.
If the court has allowed you to move, your co-parent cannot prevent you from seeing your child during your allotted time. If you find that they are continuously preventing or interfering with your parenting time, you should contact an attorney to help. It may be time to petition the court for a modification of your custody order.
If you need assistance ensuring you get to see kids after you relocate, we can help. Contact Angela F. Brown and Associates today so we can help you protect your parental rights in and out of state.
This is the eighth article in our Unthinkable Series. We’ll publish articles about some of the unique custody situations we’ve encountered in our practice with tips to help you overcome similar challenges during the series. Then we’ll host a live Q&A session where you can get your custody questions answered in real-time later in the week. If you have questions about this series or would like to submit a question for our live Q&A, please contact our office here.