First and foremost, if your spouse is agreeable to you relocating to another state with your kids, then you will be free to do. The divorce decree would have to specify that you are the conservator with the exclusive right to determine the primary residence without regard to geographic location or within a certain geographic area that includes the area to which you would like to relocate. Please keep in mind that an agreement with your spouse could include a geographic restriction that includes more than one place. For example, you could agree to a geographic restriction that says that you have the right to establish the child’s residence within Houston (Harris and its contiguous counties) and/or your hometown.
However, if your spouse is not agreeable, it is likely that your ability to move could be restricted to a geographical area.
Section 153.001(a) of the Texas Family Code states:
The public policy of this state is to:
(1) 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;
(2) provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and
(3) encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.
When rendering an order appointing parents as joint managing conservators, the court shall designate on conservator as the one the has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child. Additionally, the court shall specify either the geographic area within which that conservator can establish the child’s primary residence or that the conservator can establish the child’s primary residence without regard to geographic area.
The Texas family Code does not explicitly state the factors a trial court should consider in deciding whether a geographic restriction would be in the best interest of the child. However, there are a number of things that courts have looked at in the past, including, but not limited to the following:
- reasons for and against the move;
- the opportunities afforded by the move;
- whether the move could assist in meeting the child’s special needs or unique talents;
- effect of move on relationships with extended family;
- the effect on the noncustodial parent’s visitation and communication with the child;
- the child’s age; and
- the noncustodial parent’s ability to relocate.
Also, it is important to note that even if you are appointed as sole managing conservator of your son the court still can restrict the ability to designate the primary residence of the child. Although the section of the Texas Family Code that deals with the appointment of the rights and duties of a parent who is appointed sole managing conservator does not specifically mention a geographic restriction, it does say that the rights can be limited by order of the court.