When going through a divorce, many parents like to believe all the important issues concerning their children will be resolved once and for all with the final divorce decree. In reality, life circumstances often change for one (or both) parents following divorce, and these changes affect everyone. A common example is when a former spouse relocates. Below, we examine what Texas law says when a spouse with primary custody rights decides to relocate with the kids.
Texas Child Custody Law
The Texas Family Code section 156.102 which is also known as the “Modification of Exclusive Right to Determine Primary Residence of Child Within One Year of Order” states that a parent seeking to modify a child custody order must be file this request within one year of the date on which a settlement agreement is signed.
The parent seeking modification of this order is also required to sign an allegation establishing that one of the following is applicable:
- The child’s present environment significantly impairs the child’s physical health or emotional well-being, or
- That the person who has exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence is the individual seeking consent to the modification and the modification is in the child’s best interest, or
- The person who has exclusive right to designate the primary residence has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child for at least six months and the modification is in the best interest of the child.
How Courts Have Interpreted This Law
If a primary conservator initiates a lawsuit within one year to vacate a geographic restriction, a question arises about what standard the person is required to meet. The Fort Worth Court of Appeals has held that when a parent has exclusive right to designate a child’s primary residence within a defined geographic area and seeks to vacate this restriction within one year of the previous order, the parent must establish that a significant impairment occurred. In arriving at this decision, the Fort Worth Court of Appeals held that the purpose of 156.10 is to create stability in the lives of children by avoiding additional lawsuits or custodial issues within a short period of time after the custody order is entered. In reaching its decision, the court found that many other Texas courts have viewed 156.102 as a broadly written law when it comes to defining the scope and terms of a child’s primary residence.
Speak with a Knowledgeable Family Law Attorney Today
There are strict guidelines that must be met in order to challenge the custody rights of a child. In these situations, it’s wise to obtain the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. At Bennett, Weston, LaJone & Turner, PC, we have substantial experience in helping parents navigate child custody issues, including those associated with geographic relocation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.