- What triggers a move-away case?
- How do custody laws work?
- How can you move away from Texas with a child?
- Factors Texas courts consider
- Tips for help in a move-away case
During your divorce, courts make custody rulings, including guidelines that specify visitation. In a move-away case, one parent wants to move to a location that makes regular visits difficult.
In general, Texas courts like children to stay connected to both parents. If you want to move far away, you'll need to prove that relocation is in your child's best interests. And you'll need to convince your ex that the move is right for your child, too.
With collaboration and cooperation, move-away cases can progress quickly. But if your ex fights the relocation, you could spend time in court.
What triggers a move-away case?
Your post-divorce life could improve with a move. And sometimes, parents shift to new locations to make life better for their children.
You could start a move-away case in Texas due to some of the following factors:
- Expense: Rising home prices in your current location could make it hard for you to maintain a safe home in which to raise a child.
- Opportunities: An employer located in a faraway state could give you a better salary and benefits, so you could support your child more effectively.
- Family: Moving closer to parents, grandparents, or other family members could give your child a wider circle of support, and this could result in a better quality of life.
A move could also change your child’s relationship with your ex. But sometimes, the relocation benefits are so strong that they outweigh the drawbacks.
How do custody laws work in move-away cases in Texas?
Texas laws include rules for parents living more than 100 miles apart. Technically, it's possible to live far from your ex, but the rules are complicated.
During your divorce, courts granted physical custody of your children. Two types exist, including the following:
- Sole: If you have sole physical custody, you can decide where your child lives. You must arrange for regular visits, but you can live almost anywhere you’d like.
- Joint: If you share physical custody, your child likely spends much more time with your ex. Moving far away is harder, and your ex has more grounds to fight you.
Parents can’t change their parenting plans as outlined in divorce documents without the court’s approval. In a move-away case, you must explain to the Texas courts why it’s best for you to relocate with your child.
How can you move away from Texas with a child?
Courts use a step-by-step process to help parents who are ready to move away with their children after a divorce. The process is quick and easy if both parents agree to the move.
Step 1: Talk to your ex
Don't plan an out-of-state move without talking to your ex first. Explain why you want to move, and point out the benefits to your child. Highlight how you'll maintain your child's relationship with both parents, and look for ways to soften the blow for your ex.
If your spouse agrees, when you file your petition, you can indicate that you've held this discussion and your partner will not fight you.
Step 2: File a petition
You must ask the court to change your parenting plan as specified in your divorce. The Petition to Modify document includes a space (in Section 11) in which you can lift geographic restrictions on the child's primary residence.
Take your completed form to the courthouse in your county, preferably the one that handled your divorce. You'll pay a $15 filing fee to start this case.
Step 3: Ask your ex to file a response
In a typical court case (including divorces), one party delivers paperwork to the other in a complicated and lengthy process called serving. If you've already agreed on the move, you can skip this step. In that case, ask your spouse to fill out and file a Respondent's Waiver of Service Only (Specific Waiver) indicating that you don't need to serve them with official paperwork. Your ex must sign this form in front of a notary.
Step 4: Prepare for your court date
If the parties disagree on the move, a hearing will be scheduled. However, if both parties agree to the modification, a hearing won't be necessary.
Step 5: Receive orders from the court
If the other parent has consented to your move, you can start thinking about your relocation. However, you can't move your child to your new location without orders from the court. Wait until you have them before you move your child to a new home.
What factors do Texas courts consider when reviewing these cases?
Texas law requires judges to consider the best interest of the child when assessing custody issues.
Your judge might consider the following issues when examining your case:
- Existing relationships: How will the child maintain visits with the parent who lives elsewhere? Ideally, there should be a plan in place for regular visits.
- Opportunities: Will the child have better educational, financial, or social prospects after a move? Outline exactly what these opportunities look like.
- Parents: Does the child see both parents regularly, or is the parent left behind not very involved in their life? Be prepared to detail what a lack of involvement looks like.
- Expense: Can parents pay for the child to travel between them regularly? The cost of regular visits should be factored into any cost savings from the move.
Each case is different, and courts look at the factors impartially. If you want to move, you must make it clear that the move is best for your child.
Downloadable worksheet: Create a Texas Co-Parenting Plan
Tips to help you with a successful move-away case in Texas
You can move to a new location with your child, and many people do. But these delicate cases require hard work and careful planning.
The following tips can help you build a strong case:
- Understand your current agreement. Do you have sole custody, or do you share physical custody with your partner? Sole-custody cases are easier.
- Work with your partner. Your case will proceed quickly if you discuss your move with your partner and get buy-in before you file the paperwork. Take the time to consider their position and how you can make a move more appealing to them.
- Follow your orders. Don't be impulsive and move before the court gives you permission to do so.
- Make a good case. Gather data to support the move. Prove why your child would benefit from a new home.
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ReferencesFamily Code, Title 5: The Parent-Child Relationship and the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. Statutes, State of Texas.
Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship. (September 2018). TexasLawHelp.org.
Changing a Custody, Visitation, or Child Support Order. (January 2023). TexasLawHelp.org.
Responding to a Modification Case. (January 2023). TexasLawHelp.org.