Making The Case For Custody Relocation

Schreier HousewirthIf you’ve been through a Texas divorce and have young children, chances are you’ll need to “modify” your divorce decree when circumstances change. While many life events can serve as the basis for a petition to change custody, or as it is called in Texas, a “petition to modify,” a primary conservator’s need to move or relocate often triggers a modification suit.

Tarrant County family law judges recognize that, following a divorce, children benefit from the continued participation of both parents in their lives. To ensure this continued participation post-divorce, Dallas family court judges impose a residency restriction on the primary joint managing conservator. In other words, the parent who is granted the right to designate the primary residence of the child will need to commit to residing with the child in Tarrant County or a contiguous county.

While this geographic restriction on child custody is void if, at the time the primary conservator seeks to move, the non-primary conservator no longer resides within Tarrant or contiguous counties, the restriction must typically be lifted either by agreement of the non-primary parent or by court order following a suit to modify child custody. Such a custody modification calls upon the court to balance the custodial parent’s ability to pursue their life and interests against the noncustodial parent’s interest in participating in their child’s life.

Many Dallas child custody experts have discouraged clients from seeking to relocate, but a number of recent studies on post-divorce visitation and the rise of electronic access or “virtual visitation” have madethe case for relocation. Research has shown that one of the strongest circumstances correlated to a child’s post-divorce adjustment is the economic condition of the custodial parent. Even when a child support order is complied with in full by the noncustodial parent, there is often a steep decline in the standard of living of a recipient spouse and their children. So, if a relocation will improve the ability of the primary parent to provide for the child, isn’t it in the child’s best interest?

Also, the emotional health of the primary parent highly correlates with a child’s post-divorce wellbeing as it “ranks as one of the most powerful predictors of children’s adjustment following divorce.” So, even if the purpose of the move is for the custodial parent to relocate closer to family or a new spouse, isn’t relocation in the child’s best interest?

New technologies are available today that weren’t even considered possible twenty years ago when Texas laws on relocation were drafted. Today, parents and children can Skype with no more than a computer and a webcam. The iPhone lets you Facetime with a distant parent instantly. Tarrant County family courts and Dallas County family courts should reconsider their reluctance to allow modification of custody cases based on relocation in light of current technologies.

At Schreier and Housewirth, we are recognized child custody attorneys committed to helping Fort Worth child custody and Dallas child custody clients achieve the best outcomes for themselves and their children. If youneed to modify child custody or change custody because you need to move, call us to know your options. For over 20 years, metroplex divorce and child custody clients have turned to Schreier and Housewirth family law for their aggressive custody representation.