Having a child changes your whole world, and if you end up getting a divorce or are separated from your child’s other parent, the details of parenthood will be a little more complex because of custody arrangements. When you are a resident of Texas, parents are awarded joint legal custody unless there has been a history of abuse or violence. This means that both parents have an equal say in the decisions regarding how they raise their child.

Sometimes parents who have joint legal custody need to move out of the area for one reason or another. If this is the case, what happens with the custody arrangements? Let’s review the basics of Texas custody laws and how they pertain to relocation.

Where and How You Can Move

In most cases, the initial custody order will denote a shared schedule detailing who the child will be with and during what times. If the parents are amicable and can agree on a schedule that works best for both of them, this plan can be set in place without much legal intervention. Yet if they disagree, a judge might step in and create a specific order based on the best interests of the child.

Most of the time, custody orders stipulate that the parents must reside in a specific geographical area. This area typically includes the county in which the child currently resides as well as any surrounding counties. Each area will be different in terms of distance, but this guideline sets up the expectation that parents won’t ever be significantly far from each other. Moving within this area is usually allowed without any sort of legal notification required.

How to Move Out of State

When one parent wants to move out of state, Texas custody laws dictate a specific procedure that’s required before you can just up and leave. If the court order does not address visitation schedules when one parent resides outside of the geographical restriction, then you must apply for a new custody order from the court granting you the ability to move outside of the predetermined areas. You may also want to get a new order if you are not happy with the existing order addressing such visitation.  If you and the other parent are in agreement regarding the new order, then a judge will likely approve it.

If there are concerns about the move, or if you and the other parent cannot agree, then the child’s other parent can request a temporary restraining order or other take other legal action. You may have to attend a relocation hearing where you will have the opportunity to prove why the move is needed and how it will be in the child’s best interest. The judge will have to weigh the benefits of moving against the costs to the child, such as uprooting the child from the other parent, friends, family, neighborhood, and school.  And if you are intentionally trying to keep your child from seeing their other parent, your request to relocate will probably be denied.

Our Dallas family law attorneys have experience with relocation cases and can help families facing custody battles due to job transfers, new marriage, and other relocations.