What is Geographic Restriction?
In Texas, a geographic restriction limits where the children can live. The term is generally found in a custody order. For example, a geographic restriction may state that “PETITIONER has right to designate the residence of the children within Harris county and the counties surrounding Harris County. In other words, the petitioner cannot remove the children’s residence from those particular counties.
Geographic restrictions, also known as geo-restrictions are not always included in a divorce decree or child custody orders. Also, the court can order the restriction or the parties (the two parents/conservators) may agree to the district, county, or city(ies).
Purpose of a Geographic Restriction
The Texas Family Code section 153.001(a)(1) states the Legislature’s intent and public policy:
- That a child will have frequent and continuing contact with the parents acting in the best interest of the child;
- Provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and
- encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising the children.
Changes or Removal of the geographic restrictions
Generally, in a modification lawsuit, a parent may request for the “lifting” of the geo-restrictions or ask for an expansion. In Bates v. Tesar (2002), the Court ruled that a parent’s need to relocate is a material and substantial change in circumstances. In these types of modification of parent-child relationship suit, the Court wants to know if the relocation is in the best interest of the child. Some of the factors that the Judge will consider are:
- The impact of the relocation on the quality of the child’s life and future;
- Custodial parent/conservator’s reasons and benefits for the move;
- Whether the child will have continuing, frequent contact with the non-custodial conservator;
- Non-custodial conservator’s reasons or arguments for opposing the relocation;
- The distance of the proposed location;
- The access of non-custodial parent/conservator with the child before the relocation.
A generally rule of thumb is to include an auto-lift of the restriction. In other words, if the non-custodial parent moves out of the limiting counties or cities, the primary parent can leave too. Yes, he or she can leave without the other parent’s consent when the auto-lift is in an Order.
What if the Other Parent Relocates Without My Consent?
If the other conservator (generally the primary conservator/parent) moves with the child without telling you, it can be disheartening. A relocation can deprive one parent access to a child. Generally, a custody order or divorce decree with orders about the control and care of a child has safety statements and notices. A parent must tell the clerk and the other parent in writing if they move to a new address. The court clerk adds the new address to the court’s record.
Failure to inform the court could lead to violations of court order. The non-relocating parent can file a Motion to Enforce access and possession or file a Habeas Corpus asking a peace office to bring the child to court. Also, note that if a parent is in violation (moving without modifying the court order and removing the restrictions), you can be fined up to $500 per violation.
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Disclaimer: No information provided in this article is a legal advice. Talk to an experience family lawyer about your specific situation. This is for informational purposes only.