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Parental Relocation

People relocate for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes, economic opportunity makes moving necessary. Sometimes, it is to be closer to extended family or to seek medical treatment. And other times, people simply want a change of pace. Moving can become tricky if a parent of a minor child hopes to move significantly away from their child’s co-parent. This situation is commonly referred to as parental relocation.

Whether parents need to seek a lawyer’s assistance with a parental relocation issue depends on whether both parents are in agreement about how the situation should be handled. For example, in a divorce scenario, how the child custody order is drawn up and how the parenting agreement is drawn up can be influenced by the reality of the parental relocation. If both parents agree that the situation should be handled in a specific way, they may only need to seek a lawyer’s assistance in formalizing that agreement. Similarly, suppose both parents agree that an existing order or a parenting agreement should be modified in a specific way due to the relocation. In that case, they may only need a lawyer’s help formalizing that modification.

However, parents will likely need legal assistance if at least one party has concerns about how the relocation will affect their child’s best interests and any existing orders. An attorney can help evaluate the situation more broadly and assist parents with drafting modification requests or language for an original child custody and co-parenting agreement.

Texas Parental Relocation Lawyer

Whether you are a parent who wants to prevent a modification to your visitation/custody agreement in terms of relocation of your children, or a parent who wishes to relocate, Horak Law can provide the experience and dedicated approach essential to securing the results you desire. Attorney Matthew Horak at Horak Law has more than a decade of experience addressing family law matters.

He is prepared to take your call. Call Horak Law today at (713) 225-8000 to schedule your first consultation. Horak Law has offices in Houston and The Woodlands, but we accept clients throughout the State of Texas including Harris County, Fort Bend County, Liberty County, Waller County, Galveston County, Montgomery County, and Brazoria County.

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Information Center

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How Does Parental Relocation Affect Child Custody Matters?

The legal challenges associated with parental relocation are usually defined by which parent has primary physical custody of their child. If a parent with primary legal custody wishes to move, they must generally seek the permission of the parent who does not have primary custody of the child. If the non-custodial parent objects to the relocation, the parent who wishes to move must generally seek approval from the court. Alternatively, if the custodial parent does not seek the court’s approval, the non-custodial parent can file an objection with the court.

Suppose child custody has not yet been awarded when a significant move is being contemplated. In that case, this reality may factor into the court’s decision on whether awarding primary physical custody to one parent or the other is in the child’s best interests. As a result, it is a good idea for parents who wish to move and assume primary physical custody of their child to consult an attorney if their child’s co-parent is likely to object to this arrangement.

Conversely, suppose a child custody order has not yet been entered, and both parents agree that the move can occur without objection. In that case, they can work with an attorney to ensure that the terms of their co-parenting and custody arrangements reflect the reality of that relocation. Not every parental relocation matter is contentious. Many parents support each other in relocation efforts and find ways to manage the long-distance situation effectively. It certainly helps that Americans live during a time when parents and children can remain connected daily in various ways regardless of where in the country they may reside.

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Is Parental Relocation Grounds For Modifying An Existing Order?

Chapter 156 of the Texas Family Code allows for modifying existing child custody, support, and parenting agreement orders under certain circumstances. Co-parents may voluntarily amend existing orders if they both agree to the terms of the change. However, a judge must formally sign off on this change before it can take legal effect. If parents disagree about modifying the terms of an existing order, one party may petition the court to request a modification if certain criteria are met.

Specifically, the petitioning party must prove that the requested modification is in the child’s best interests and that at least one of the following circumstances applies to the situation at hand. First, the person who has primary custody of the child has allowed another party to have primary care and possession of the child for at least six months. Second, a child of at least twelve tells a judge with whom they want to live. Third, the child or someone else affected by the order has experienced a material and substantial change in circumstances. One parent’s plans to move significantly far away from the other child’s co-parent is generally viewed as a significant and material change in circumstances.

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A Word About Child Support

Generally speaking, a child’s relocation has no impact on the child support obligations of either parent. Parental relocation situations may warrant a modification in child support; however, it’s not generally wise to ask the court for permission to pay less financial support for one’s child simply because they no longer live as close as they used to.

In Texas, child support modification requests will only be honored if a child’s circumstances or someone affected by the child support order have materially and substantially changed. A significant move may meet this criterion. But, unless someone responsible for paying support has also experienced a significant decrease in income, the court will question why that child should receive less support simply because they live elsewhere.

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Additional Resources

Out-of-State Parents – This guide, authored by the office of the Texas State Attorney General, provides links to help parents establish, enforce, or modify an existing child support order when their child’s other parent doesn’t live in the same state.

Families and Parenting – This guide – which is also authored by the office of the Texas State Attorney General – provides helpful resources for parents who may or may not live far apart from one another.

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Houston Parental Relocation Attorney | Harris County, TX

At Horak Law, we understand that changes in a parent’s life can make sharing child custody a challenge. Whether you are a parent who wishes to relocate or a parent who wants to enforce an existing custody order, Houston family law attorney Matthew Horak at Horak Law will do everything he can to help secure the result that’s best for you and your family.

Call our office at (713) 225-8000 to learn more about your legal options. Horak Law has offices in The Woodlands and Houston, TX.

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  • Texas Board of Legal Specialization | Criminal Law
  • National College for DUI Defense
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Laywers
  • Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association
  • Matt Horak has earned recognition for community leadership by Lawyer Legion