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parental relocation

Parental relocation refers to a situation in which a parent wants to move to a different city or state with their child from a previous relationship. Such a parent will typically have a child custody agreement with the child’s other parent that is an enforceable court order—often included in the divorce decree or in another court order for child custody and support obligations (in a suit affecting parent-child relationship or SAPCR).

The reasons a parent may want to relocate include a new job opportunity, educational opportunities, or to be closer to family members who are able to assist with raising the child. The other parent’s failure to meet child custody or visitation obligations may be cited as a factor in support of the parental relocation.

Child custody agreements and court orders typically include geographic restrictions on the parents’ travel with the children and on relocation of the parents’ residences—limiting relocation to a certain number of miles from the child’s school district or the parents’ residence at the time of divorce, for example. These restrictions are designed to ensure both parents will have frequent and continuing contact with the child.

Geographic restrictions can be changed by agreement of the parents or by court order if the spouse seeking to relocate files a motion to modify the child custody order. If the parents are not able to agree on relocation terms the court will generally make the decision on whether to permit or deny relocation based on what is in the best interests of the child.

In Texas, parental relocation is governed by the terms of the child custody agreement or court order, which is often part of a divorce decree or a suit affecting the parent-child relationship (SAPCR). These agreements or orders typically include geographic restrictions that limit how far a parent can move with the child, usually in relation to the child's school district or the parents' residence at the time of the divorce. The intent behind these restrictions is to maintain frequent and continuing contact between the child and both parents. If a parent wishes to relocate for reasons such as employment, education, or family support, and the move would violate the geographic restrictions, they must either obtain the other parent's agreement or file a motion to modify the child custody order with the court. The court will then decide whether to allow the relocation based on the best interests of the child, considering factors such as the child's needs, the impact on the child's relationship with both parents, and the reasons for the proposed move. If the other parent has failed to meet custody or visitation obligations, this may be considered in support of the relocation request.


Texas Statutes & Rules

Texas Family Code, Section 156.101 - Right to Modify Parent-Child Relationship Order
This statute is relevant because it outlines the circumstances under which a parent can seek to modify a child custody order, which may be necessary for parental relocation.

Under Texas law, a court may modify a child custody order if the circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other party affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the earlier of the date of the order's rendition or the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based. Additionally, modification may be granted if the child is at least 12 years old and has expressed to the court in chambers the name of the person who is the child's preference to have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child, or if the conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months. This provision is applicable to situations where a parent seeks to relocate and needs to modify the existing custody order to reflect the new living arrangements.

Texas Family Code, Section 156.102 - Modification of Exclusive Right to Determine Primary Residence Within One Year of Order
This statute is relevant for parents seeking to relocate within one year of the original custody order being established.

A parent seeking to modify the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child within one year after that order was rendered or signed must also submit an affidavit to the court. The affidavit must contain, with supporting facts, at least one of the following allegations: that the child's present environment may endanger the child's physical health or significantly impair the child's emotional development; that the person entitled to establish the child's primary residence is seeking the modification and the modification is in the best interest of the child; or that the person entitled to establish 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. This is particularly relevant for parents who have recently divorced or separated and are looking to relocate with their child.

Texas Family Code, Section 156.103 - Temporary Orders
This statute is relevant as it allows for temporary modification orders, which may be necessary during the process of parental relocation.

In a suit for modification of a child custody order, the court may render a temporary order as the court deems necessary to preserve the status quo, protect the parties' property, protect the child's welfare, or for any other proper purpose. The court may not render a temporary order that has the effect of changing the designation of the person who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child under the final order, except in certain circumstances. These circumstances include evidence that the child's present environment may endanger the child's physical health or significantly impair the child's emotional development, among others. This provision allows for temporary arrangements to be made while a decision on the permanent modification related to relocation is pending.

Texas Family Code, Section 156.104 - Modification of Conservatorship or Possession and Access Within One Year of Order
This statute is relevant for parents seeking to modify conservatorship or possession and access within one year of the original order, which may be related to relocation.

Similar to Section 156.102, this section requires an affidavit for modifications sought within one year of the original order. The affidavit must contain at least one of the following allegations: that the child's present environment may endanger the child's physical health or significantly impair the child's emotional development; that the conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months and the modification is in the best interest of the child; or that the child's present environment may endanger the child's physical health or significantly impair the child's emotional development. This is important for parents who need to modify the custody arrangement due to relocation and are within the first year of the original custody order.

Texas Family Code, Section 153.001 - Public Policy
This statute outlines the public policy considerations that the court will take into account when making decisions about child custody, which includes decisions about parental relocation.

The public policy of Texas is to assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child; to provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and to encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage. When considering a parental relocation request, the court will consider these public policy goals to ensure that the best interests of the child are being served.

Texas Family Code, Section 153.002 - Best Interest of Child
This statute is the cornerstone of child custody decisions, including those involving parental relocation, as it establishes the best interest of the child as the primary consideration.

In determining the best interest of the child, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including: the desires of the child; the emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future; any emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future; the parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody; the programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interest of the child; the plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody; the stability of the home or proposed placement; the acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one; and any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent. This statute is directly applicable to cases of parental relocation, as the court will evaluate the impact of the move on the child's best interests.

Federal Statutes & Rules

Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) - 28 U.S.C. § 1738A
The PKPA is relevant to parental relocation as it addresses the legal framework for determining which state's custody order is to be enforced when parents live in different states.

The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) is a federal statute that provides a mechanism for the enforcement of child custody determinations across state lines. It is designed to prevent a parent from taking a child to another state in an attempt to obtain a more favorable custody order. The PKPA mandates that states give full faith and credit to child custody determinations made by other states if those determinations were made in accordance with the PKPA's jurisdictional standards. It requires that the state that made the original custody determination has jurisdiction based on the child's home state or significant connections with the child and one parent. The PKPA also provides that once a state has made a custody determination, that state retains exclusive jurisdiction over the case as long as that state remains the child's home state or the child and at least one parent have significant connections with the state.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) - Adopted by states
While the UCCJEA is not a federal statute, it is a uniform state law that has been adopted by all 50 states and is relevant to parental relocation as it governs jurisdictional issues in child custody cases.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a uniform state law that has been adopted by all 50 states to provide a consistent legal framework for the jurisdiction and enforcement of child custody orders. The UCCJEA helps resolve jurisdictional conflicts between states, ensuring that only one state has jurisdiction over a child custody case at a time. It establishes criteria for initial custody determinations, enforcement of custody orders, and modification of custody orders across state lines. The UCCJEA gives priority to the child's home state in making initial custody determinations and provides mechanisms for the enforcement of custody and visitation orders from other states. It also addresses the issue of parental kidnapping by providing for the enforcement of custody orders and the return of abducted children. The UCCJEA is relevant to parental relocation because it determines which state's courts have the authority to decide on a relocation request when parents live in different states.

Interstate Child Support Enforcement - 42 U.S.C. § 666
This statute is relevant to parental relocation as it addresses the enforcement of child support orders across state lines, which may be impacted by parental relocation.

Title 42 U.S.C. § 666 requires each state to establish procedures for the establishment, modification, and enforcement of child support orders, including cases where parents live in different states. This federal statute is part of the Child Support Enforcement Act and is designed to ensure that child support obligations are maintained even when a non-custodial parent moves out of state. The statute mandates that states have procedures for the use of income withholding orders, the imposition of liens against the property of non-paying parents, and other enforcement mechanisms such as reporting child support arrears to credit bureaus. It also requires states to cooperate with each other in the enforcement of child support and to recognize and enforce child support orders from other states. This is particularly relevant in cases of parental relocation, as it ensures that a parent moving to a different state cannot evade their child support obligations.