Just when it seems like you had everything figured out after your divorce, with all the paperwork taken care of and the judgment signed, you get a job in a different state. Or your ex tells you they must move 300 miles away to take that new position that cuts your spousal support in half. No matter what, suddenly, it means that your carefully planned visitation agreement is in tatters. Now what do you do? Contact The Adams Law Firm.
The Many Permutations of Moving After Divorce
Surprisingly, after a divorce in Texas, you may not be free to pack up and move anytime you want. If you are the non-custodial parent, you can go anywhere you like, but you cannot always enforce your visitation agreement. If you are the custodial parent, there may be language in the custody order prohibiting you from leaving the court’s jurisdiction without a court order.
For instance, suppose you and your spouse have an alternating week custody order, and your spouse is the designated custodial parent. You pick up your child at your former spouse’s home on Sunday nights. If you decide to move from Texas to California, you may do so, but you cannot reasonably expect to continue your alternating schedule.
On the other hand, if your former spouse decides to move from Texas to California, as custodial parent, the child would have to go too, but you now have the right to petition the court to prevent the move since this would take the child out of the court’s jurisdiction and away from your reasonable visitation.
Unfortunately, non-custodial parental kidnapping is the most common type of child abduction in America. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 63 percent of all Amber Alerts were issued for parental abductions in 2020. For this reason, the courts must take a hard line on divorced parents moving with their children in tow.
Moving After Divorce the Right Way
If you plan to move out of state, or even more than one county from your current location, and need to protect your visitation rights, you need to get legal assistance. You will need to modify your existing custody order to accommodate your move and ensure that the order allows for any change of jurisdiction. Some important things to consider:
- Substantial change of circumstances. To modify any divorce order, you need to show that there is a good reason to do so, beyond just wanting to move. If you have a solid job offer (not just an opportunity), this is usually enough to convince the judge.
- Best interest of the child. Believe it or not, Texas courts can interfere with how you and your ex-spouse raise your own child. The judge can look at your upcoming relocation and decide whether moving is in the best interest of the child and rule accordingly. This makes a difference if you are the custodial parent.
- Physical custody can be transferred to the non-custodial parent, allowing the child to remain in the state while the other parent moves.
- The custodial parent can be enjoined (ordered by the court) to remain in the state until the matter can be resolved.
- Reservation of jurisdiction. This is a legal term that means the court that made the original order remains the court that must make any changes. If you or your former spouse decide at some later date to move or relocate again, you will need to come back to this same court to make any additional modifications.
What Happens Next?
Modifying your custody and visitation arrangements is not difficult if all parties agree. What will be done depends on where you relocate and any scheduling challenges. If your new job takes you anywhere in the United States, the only thing that needs to be done is to arrange for you to receive your visitation as time during summer and holidays and to arrange travel.
If the parties disagree, particularly if you are the custodial parent and your former spouse wants to make things difficult for you, you will need the services of a skilled attorney. At Adams Law Firm, we specialize in difficult divorces and their aftermath, and we know that ex-spouses can cause endless pain for our clients.
If you need to modify your visitation plan for a relocation due to a new job or another issue, contact the Katy child support and custody lawyers of (281) 391-9237 and let us take one stressor off the table. The consultation is confidential.